The Goldfinch was one of a few paintings by a Dutch master, a pupil of Rembrandt, to survive an explosion in Delft that killed the artist. At the start of Tartt’s novel, more than 350 years later, the painting survives a second explosion, in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It is rescued (well, taken) from a dust-storm of collapsing rubble by 13-year-old Theo, who was visiting the museum with his mother. She was killed in the blast and the painting becomes a powerful force in Theo’s life – a dangerous secret and the key to his survival. A dysfunctional family who live in an Upper East Side apartment take Theo in. The book moves from the smart parts of New York to the edge of Las Vegas, where life is a roller coaster ride.
But the book’s real heart is the Dickensian furniture restoration workshop of Hobie, Theo’s moral touchstone, an exquisite figure surrounded by beautiful broken things.
Tartt’s writing is multilayered (prompting comparisons with Proust); the bomb in the Met is a virtuoso passage, evoking the sensory and mental confusion of a survivor, and providing a catalyst that reverberates through his life.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown) at www. amazon.com