The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

9th Oct 2013

It's finally (almost) here. More than twenty years after her internationally bestselling debut, The Secret History, and over a decade since her second novel, The Little Friend, Donna Tartt is back - more epic and incredible than ever.

Since its 1992 release, The Secret History has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies in more than twenty languages. Ten years later, The Little Friend met immense expectations and mixed reviews.

And then there’s The Goldfinch, a heartbreakingly beautiful 770-page odyssey that’s one of the the most-eagerly awaited books of the year (if not the decade). So was it worth the wait?

In a word, absolutely. While the subject matter and settings are a world apart from her previous books, the themes remain the same; love, loss, survival, obsession, fate and identity are all explored, with trademark Donna Tartt aplomb.

This time, she takes her readers to New York, Vegas and Amsterdam, as alienated teen narrator Theo Decker survives an accident that tears his life apart, losing everything in the process.

Except the Goldfinch: a small, strangely captivating painting that falls into Theo’s possession and takes him on a journey across America and beyond, from an explosion at The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art into a disturbing and dangerous criminal underworld.

Along the way, Theo encounters a compelling and charismatic cast of misfits and miscreants, all as haunted, damaged and duplicitous as our protagonist. The stand-out star of these is Boris; a darkly comic delinquent Russian teen with a fondness for vodka, Thoreau, Dostoyevsky and petty crime, who fast becomes Theo’s best friend.

Tartt's use of language and imagery are as delicious as always; rich and gorgeously wrought, creating a deftly described world so vivid, bittersweet and beautiful that you'll want to savour every sentence.Foul-mouthed, energetic and impulsive, Boris is the perfect wise-cracking, nihilistic foil for Theo’s tendency to disenchantment and melancholy, and their reckless sessions of adolescent rebellion – imbued with an tension and urgency reminiscent of Bret Easton EllisLess Than Zero – are sure to chime a chord of recognition and empathy with many a reader.

And it’s not only these episodes where Donna Tartt excels; The Goldfinch also includes incredible, evocative depictions of soulless Vegas neon, Maltese dogs, addiction, antiques restoration, unrequited love, grief, art, gangsters and so much more besides.

Tartt’s use of language and imagery are as delicious as always; rich and gorgeously wrought, creating a deftly described world so vivid, bittersweet and beautiful that you’ll want to savour every sentence.

While there’s no denying that The Goldfinch is an epic, ambitious undertaking – drawing comparisons to DickensGreat Expectations – and some have called into question its length and pace.

But with such brilliant writing and storytelling, ending in a powerful, profound finale, in all I’m in love. And I already can’t wait to read it again.

Published by Little Brown on October 22nd, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is available for pre-order now.


  • Susan Elliot Wright says:

    Thanks for this review – I can’t WAIT to read this!

  • Jess says:

    Have pre-ordered. Joy joy joy joy joy.

  • Alexis Somerville says:

    Glad you liked it so much – very excited to read now!

  • UleyGirl says:

    I completely agree. She creates characters that draw you in immediately, it’s so important to care about them from the start. Her writing is detailed and descriptive, without being intense, so you get pulled along with the story and don’t ever want to ‘just skim a para’ to get to the good bit. Because it’s all good. The best thing about Tartt is her ability to create an atmosphere you can smell, taste and be part of. Beautiful book.