Book review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Tartt with a heart?

The Goldfinch

By Donna Tartt.

Published: Little Brown, 2013

It has now been over twenty years since the publication of The Secret History. The book provoked an immediate literary sensation and remains a hugely compelling read today. A strange tale of murder amongst an elite set of cliquey American students, it became an instant cult classic and made a star of its then youthful and seemingly mysterious author Donna Tartt.

But readers eager for more from Tartt would be disappointed. Her follow up The Little Friend didn’t appear for another full decade later and like many follow ups to successful debuts, disappointed many when it did.

Now a full decade has passed again and Tartt has finally delivered a third book. Does it deliver the goods?

The short answer is: yes. Impatient fans are owed no apology. This is, in fact, a huge book (over 700 pages), and a hugely involving saga which follows its lead character Theo Decker from his mother’s death in a terrorist attack in an art gallery through the next decade of his life during which he becomes drawn towards the world of organised crime. This occurs largely as a result of The Goldfinch itself: a small (and genuine) portrait taken by Decker from the gallery at the time of the attack.

Despite this very 21st century subject matter and its American setting, this has something of the feel of a Victorian epic, for example, Dickens’ David Copperfield. Anyone expecting another Secret History will be disappointed (and rightly so! Why not just read the original again?). But Donna Tartt has undoubtedly triumphed again: for this is a classic in its own right.

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