The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

New Yorker Theo Decker survives a shocking tragedy at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that takes the life of his mother when he is only 13 years old.

At the behest of a dying stranger, Theo picks up “The Goldfinch,” made in 1654 by Carel Fabritius, unintentionally beginning a chain of events that propels him into a hectic and dangerous future unknown to him until much later in life.

After his mother’s death, Theo is taken in by various friends and family. The situations range from abusive, neglectful, indifferent and scattered but loving. No matter where he currently resides, Theo experiences constant anxiety about his painting, his one treasured secret that simultaneously haunts and sustains him after his mother’s death.

Throughout “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, Theo’s world is made up of just a few key people who appear and disappear through happenstance reminiscent of Dickens. Characters feature heavily for a short time, vanish suddenly and then pop up later to upturn his story with fateful occurrences and new revelations.

The cast of characters that surround Theo is small but colorful. It includes an affluent Upper West Side friend’s family; an alcoholic father; a drug-addled, vodka-loving Russian best friend; a frail, red-haired young lady he loves from the moment they meet; an annoying little dog he protects; and a friend, Hobie, who protects him.

His childhood is sporadic and disjointed as he traverses from a loving home in New York to a crazy, drugged-half-unconscious existence in Vegas and then back to New York and eventually Amsterdam.

Theo’s character seems to teeter between an aptitude for beauty, love and accomplishment and his pivotal mistakes. He is able to recognize great art; he loves to help Hobie with the craft of restoring priceless furniture, and he desperately seeks out love from those around him.

But Theo is struggling to survive the only way he knows how, so he makes plenty of bad decisions. Whether they are through fear, anxiety or need, he often does the wrong thing even when he sets out to do the right one.

Theo is no bright, innocent protagonist for a reader to worship. He is a young man shattered forever the day he lost his mother and acquired his secret. When he finally attempts to put himself back together, it turns out to be a long trek full of violence, fear and unpredictability.

He is irrevocably shaped by the events of his past. Paranoid, anxious, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and an addiction to drugs, he is stuck emotionally within his childhood self, yearning for everything and everyone he was attached to as an adolescent, unable to move on.

Tartt paints Theo’s sharp and flawed existence with gorgeous prose and incredibly vivid imagery. Her writing, whether describing a dirty drug dealer’s hovel or the snow glistening on a street lamp, is detailed and evocative. The world she creates sparkles even in its darkest corners.

“The Goldfinch” leaves us wondering if maybe our lives are truly fated – if it could be, as her character says, that our “pattern is preset.”

Maybe even through many mistakes, great feats that are meant to be will happen.

Maybe a great many wrongs can make one glorious, fateful right.

 

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Grab Bag o’ Books Giveaway (closed)

I recently was offered a job in New York (confetti! trumpets!) so I will be relocating from my current perch in Texas. As a result, everything I own must fit into my car for the drive over. Due to the lovely local bookstores here, I have too many books and not enough room.

Help me make my car look less like this:

And more like this:

So in celebration of sending my books to good homes instead of donating them to a Library that already has copies of most of what I own (I checked), I am giving them away to fellow book lovers.

Interested? Here we go! In the spirit of surprises and fun, comment on this post to win a book in the great Grab Bag o’ Books Giveaway. You won’t know what you are getting until you get it, but note, most of what I own is YA, Fiction, Non-Fiction and some historical novels.

So here are the steps:

1.) Make sure you are a follower of my blog

2.) Leave a comment telling me what kind of books you like to read (so I can try to send you something you’d enjoy)

3.) Send a mailing address to readingconfessions@gmail.com

That’s it! Woo hoo!

*Winners have been notified and will be mailed books soon*

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

I particularly loved the adjective bookish, which I found other people used about as often as ramrod or chum or teetotaler.

Oh David Levithan, may I call you David? I now officially adore you. Rachel Cohn, I haven’t read your work before but I certainly will now. I truly enjoyed the sweetness of A Lover’s Dictionary, but Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares stole my heart. This book is like a big bear hug infused with lots of intelligence, wit and an almost obsessive love of books. (which we all know, is the best kind.)

Its Christmas season in Manhattan and Dash and Lily, 16, are thrown together in a whirlwind adventure that starts and ends in the Strand. (If you don’t know the Strand, it is also known as the most awesome bookstore in New York.) Lily leaves a red moleskine notebook (because what other kind would feature in a bookstore adventure?) which she hides among the stacks of the Strand, next to Franny and Zoey, of course. She leaves a trail of literary clues in the notebook for a boy to find and follow. Dash, a fellow book lover, finds the notebook, follows her clues and then in return, leaves some of his own. They pass the notebook back and forth in places that tell the other person a little about their personality and their lives. Lily leaves it with Santa (she loves-loves-loves christmas), Dash leaves it at the movie Grandma Got Run Over By Reindeer (dash, obviously, does not.) And on and on they go, until well.. you’ll see.

This book is obviously written by a bibliophile and will appeal to all such like-minded book geeks everywhere. But it will also appeal to anyone who loves a good laugh and a great turn of phrase. They, and their story, are clever while being irresistibly charming. Although at times it may feel a little unrealistic because these teens are so well read, so articulate, so eloquent and so lovely, I found myself not caring. It is just extremely satisfying to believe, if only within the pages of this book, that such teens exist. That such people exist.