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Review: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

We wondered why we'd not heard from Cara Fielder in a while... Turns out she was lost amidst the pages of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch - which is published today...

Posted on 22nd October 2013 by Cara Fielder

The GoldfinchAs a bookseller there are certain books that are a joy to help people discover. One of these titles is The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a title that has a place in many readers’ hearts no matter of age, sex, colour or creed. With her first ever novel being so highly regarded and well loved and her second novel being an award winner it’s unsurprising that the literary community is buzzing with excitement at the release of her latest novel, The Goldfinch. So after an eleven year wait will Donna Tartt leave booklovers breathless or completely underwhelmed?

Within the pages of The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt introduces us to Theo Decker, a thirteen year-old boy living with his mother in New York. On the way to a school meeting where Theo is sure he’s going to be expelled, Theo and his mother to kill some time by entering a museum. While nervously browsing the works of art, a flash and a bang change his life forever. The next thing he knows he’s waking up on the floor, surrounded by rubble and dust with a ringing in his ears. Unsure of where he is or what has happened, he slowly tries to get his bearings and then he sees a man he thinks is familiar. The old man has a large gash across his head and is speaking to Theo as if he knows him. Holding his hand as the man speaks his last words, the boy does all he can to make the him comfortable. On the verge of death the man begs Theo to save a tiny painting called The Goldfinch and to protect it from "them". Barely aware of what he’s doing, Theo agrees to do so to calm the man down. Moments later the old man passes away - and Theo runs with the painting.

This snap decision leaves him in the possession of one of the most famous paintings in the world and, when his mother fails to come home, he’s alone with no idea how to make things right.

A couple of pages into this novel and you will be in love with the writing. Fifty pages in you’ll be ignoring your loved ones and forgetting to eat. At over seven hundred and fifty pages long it may appear overwhelming but with such beautiful writing and vivid characters it never feels padded. As a child Theo breaks your heart and the scene inside the museum is simply one of the most absorbing things I have ever read. As an adult his mistakes are infuriating yet you still find yourself making excuses for him.

This novel also discusses some important issues about child care and state intervention, bereavement, drug use, alcoholism and gambling. Although it always approaches these subjects with painful realism this novel never becomes depressing as Donna Tartt manages to weave in a dark humour that relieves the tension. This is especially true during Theo’s later teen years where he and his best friend are left to virtually raise themselves in Las Vegas.

If there is one truly unmissable book released this winter, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is truly it.

Cara Fielder, for Waterstones.com/blog

While stocks last, you can buy a specially bound cloth and board, numbered, and signed edition of The Goldfinch. Find out more here

You can Reserve & Collect The Goldfinch from your local Waterstones bookshop (http://bit.ly/GZsCUJ), buy it online at Waterstones.com (http://bit.ly/GZsCEc) or download it in ePub format (http://bit.ly/GZsFjh)