This lengthy tale follows the challenging life of a young boy who survived a deadly art museum explosion and the famous Goldfinch painting, which disappeared in the aftermath of the tragedy. In the confusion of the explosion, the boy meets Welty, an elderly man, who gives him a signet ring which leads him to his friend, Hobie, at their antique shop. Meeting Hobie, changes Theo’s life as he learns to appreciate antiques much like he learned a love of art from his mother.
The boy, grieving for his mother, lives with his friend’s affluent family until his wayward father arrives to plunder his mother’s belongings and whisk him off to Vegas. In Vegas, he struggles with his bereavement and is neglected by his gambling father who is in over his head in debt. He eventually ends up back in New York living and working with Hobie while he struggles to live with his loss and guilt, in a self-destructive haze of drugs and drinking.
The book focuses on the love and admiration of objects that last. It describes the precise repair of antiques and references a number of artists and paintings. The Goldfinch was a symbol of this objectification and this painting has been enjoyed and discussed since 1654.
Theo becomes involved in a world of lies and deceit leading him to Amsterdam. He spends time, alone in his hotel room as he reflects on his life. Once the painting is dramatically discovered, he begins to make amends for his mistakes. Despite several recommendations, I may not have picked up this book if it were not a book club choice but I really enjoyed it. I liked that it followed the boy through his life and liked how it all wrapped up in the end. (1683 e pages)
“But the painting has also taught me that we can speak to each other across time”
#10 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction List – October7, 2014