Reading some of the reviews on this book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the time on 770 pages, but it won a Pulitzer Prize. Those are certainly not given for bad writing. After reading it, I think most of the people that didn’t enjoy this book didn’t understand what it was really about.
At the heart, this is a character study of a young boy, torn apart by the death of his mother. The descent into a profound depression is described in a true-to-life manner. So many young people, adrift without direction, turn to drugs and alcohol. Theo does just that. The fixation on minutiae is a symptom of depression, and is well described with elegance. The story moves slowly, which does drive some people to quit the book, but again, it isn’t an action novel. The story is Theo, his battles, his demons, his slow maturity, eventually coming to grips with what is right and wrong. He is fixated on the painting of The Goldfinch, noting the terrible chain forcing the tiny bird to live a lonely existence. Such is Theo’s life, chained to the memories he cannot reconcile, obsessed with a painting he shouldn’t possess, tormented by the specter of having it taken from him, yet needing it as a touchstone to his mother.
I also thought the actual cover art was interesting. It really looks like the cover is torn doesn’t it? The hallmark of Carel Faritius’ painting is that the tiny bird is a trompe l’oeil, meaning true to life. The torn cover is also trompe l’oeil.
I found it a fascinating novel, not a difficult read, just a long one. I recommend it.
Have you read The Goldfinch?