Guest Book Review by David Lowe: "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt
Early in The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt presents us with a startling and violent act. For the next chapter we see the world through the eyes and thoughts of a 13-year-old boy in a state of shock. I know of no finer twenty pages written by a living author in English.
Donna Tartt writes slowly. Very slowly. She calls herself “a miniaturist – painting a wall-size mural with a brush the size of an eyelash; doing very tiny, very detailed work, but over a large space and over a long period of time. That’s why it takes so long.” She began her first novel when she was a college student. Eight years later, she finished The Secret History, which came out in 1992 to a frenzy of critical praise and commercial success rarely seen for a first novel. Ten more years produced the disappointing The Little Friend. Another ten years and she gives us The Goldfinch, the best novel about post traumatic stress since The Sun Also Rises.
It isn't just about PTSD, of course, or there wouldn't be much of a novel to talk about. *Goldfinch*, like Tartt's other two books, is populated by characters emotionally, no *spiritually* disfigured by violence in ways that clinical psychological jargon can't describe. The orphaned Theo Decker will never recover from his adolescent catastrophe. He will find something close to redemption, but first he must lurch from household to household and from the street to a life of genteel white-collar crime on the fringes of the New York elite. Along the way he steals a priceless painting, encounters a Russian gangster or two, kills a man in a shootout, ingests enough drugs to incapacitate Keith Richards, and pursues the love he glimpsed moments before his life fell apart.
After three novels, I see a pattern. On Planet Tartt, fathers are jerks. There are no happy marriages -- not even happy relationships. Rarely is there good sex. And yet, I find myself hoping I live another ten years to read her next.