The thing about Donna Tartt is that everyone loved her 1992 novel, "The Secret History." People still buy it as a gift and still recommend it. The proverbial anti-detective story, as it was called, was a hit. Call it a Greek tragedy. Finally, Tartt has returned with something better than her acme, entitled "Goldfinch."
The woman's mind is so dark and broody that it sucks you in on the first page. Correction: The first sentence. She has that ability. "While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamt about my mother for the first time in years," is how she opens her new opus. And then the rollercoaster starts as your tummy jumps high into the sky and flips and screams for more.
The hit comes like a tsunami, violent and freely. A 13-year-old boy survives a bomb blast at the Met in New York that kills his mother. The boy's father abandoned him, so a wealthy family that lives on Park Avenue takes him in - how's that for the setting of a dark, dark novel? I'd say it's more than absolutely perfect.
Theo is the lad's name. He is lost without his mother, but clings to a mysterious painting called The Goldfinch that takes him back to his mother's love. But where else can this little painting take this young hero? For 800 pages you follow Theo as he moves around the globe searching for himself, and you eagerly put the pieces of the puzzle together as you travel along side by side with this little (and, later, big) guy.
Besides loving Tartt's way of describing the world and creating characters that I want to meet, have sexual relations with, and then share a cup of tea with, I love her ability to say, "Forget short form - here is a novel for the ages."
She reminds us as readers that long form is as valid as ever: "The Goldfinch" is the "Great Expectations" of our time. It's epic, it's an adventure, it does require a commitment from the reader. It's the ultimate respect you can show to a writer of her caliber: Yes, I will sit down and read your entire novel, through the night if I have to, because I know it's that good.
Even sometimes grumpy Stephen King wrote of "The Goldfinch," in the New York Times Book Review, "You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but . . . they never do."
Little, Brown and Company
by Donna Tartt