The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


Leggi questo articolo in Italiano

The Goldfinch is the last novel by Donna Tartt, and the first I read from this author.

The novel takes the title from the painting by Carel Fabritius about a goldfinch chained to a perch;the painting will have a particular role into the novel and it follow the main character into the difficult choices life impose him.

Theo, a twelve year old boy, finds himself involved in a terroristic attack at the where his mother, the only parent who cares for him, dies, and while coming out from that place of horror he steals the painting and he hid it in his home.

The boy’s life will be deeply marked by the death of his mother, event that will bring him to live with the Barbour, the rich family of an old friend of him, and that will exacerbate his inclination toward depression and self-destruction bringing him towards various kind of addictions, from alcohol to drugs.

Essential in his life will be the meeting with Boris, a Russian boy already on the path of an existence at the edge of legality, and the inconstant presence of Pippa, who shared with Theo the attack moment and who is able to understand his feelings about it.

The Goldfinch / Il Cardellino by Carel Fabritius

The painting will arise in Theo mixed feelings: on one hand he is aware of having deprived the humanity of a work of art and of having committed a crime, on the other hand the attraction to the painting – that reminds him of his mother – is too strong to allow him to give it back; this element makes impossible for him to let go his past and to live a serene existence.


The plot is engaging, a part of some chapters where everything slows focusing maybe too much on the boy’s emotions that permeate the whole novel (and that poses a risk of depression for the most emphatic readers) : Theo lives an unlucy life, both for chance and for some choices he makes, his reflexive character brings him to share with the reader his doubts, uncertainties and driving emotions.

I have to talk about the descriptions, so vivid and true, that are able to bring the reader just there, where the author wants us to be, beautiful also for the linguistic choices made and for the love of art and music that is a carrying force of the whole novel.

In its construction the novel reminds us of the old great literature, and it’s a read I suggest, despite its complexity and being emotionally demanding.

Least but not last I ask myself: why that specific painting? The goldfinch in the picture is chained, that could be a reference to the fact that Theo choses no to let go the memory of his mother, but to froze himself in that specific, last moment they shared. Or it can mean that Theo’s life is chained in a path he was not able to choose himself.

I read that the goldfinch means the soul of man who leaves the body after death: maybe Thes’s mother whose soul cannot leave the world ?

In a novel where nothing is for chance I think it’s normal to ask some questions of this kind and to answer them, even if giving a non-universal answer.


* The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt ★★★

*I read this book in English

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