Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
First line: "While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years."

Theo Decker is thirteen when he and his mother walk into the New York art museum. They are headed to Theo's school because he's been suspended, but the rain detours them into the museum. That's also the very day a domestic terrorist sets off a bomb in the museum.

Theo and his mother are separated when the bomb explodes, and when he regains consciousness Theo finds himself near a dying man. The man gives Theo his ring with directions to save a small painting of a goldfinch and return the ring to his business partner.

Theo escapes the museum, but his mother doesn't. Virtually orphaned, this event sets in motion the storm of Theo's life. From high society New York to loan sharks in Las Vegas, around the world with art thieves, Theo life, love, loss, fear.

As I mentioned at the end of 2013, The Goldfinch was one of my favorite audiobooks of the year. Narrated by David Pittu, the depth of emotion comes through so powerfully that many parts of the novel are physically and emotionally uncomfortable; the listener feels it that intensely. The loneliness and isolation Theo experiences are translated through Pittu's tone and pacing.

The portrayal of Theo's friend Boris, a Ukrainian immigrant, is award-worthy. Not only does Pittu deliver a convincing dialect, but he projects Boris' intelligence and humor. There's no question that Boris is a child, forced to mature and fend for himself because of his life circumstances. The bond that develops between Theo and Boris is unique because of their situations but also typical of teenage boys. Tartt's examination of this relationship is masterful and as stunning as the artwork that lends its name to the title.

Also worthy of mention is Theo's benefactor of sorts, Hobie. His age, place in society, dedication to his craft as well as his devotion and ethics all come through in Pittu's interpretation. From the old gentleman to the Hispanic doormen to the high society women, Pittu presents each with distinct voices that reflect all the facets Tartt has chiseled into their characters.

The novel's plot stretches out years--through Theo's childhood and young adulthood--yet Tartt maintains a level of suspense and mystery throughout. Despite it's length (over 32 hours), this isn't an audio that's easy to turn off and come back to. Pittu intensifies Tartt's well crafted anticipation by not giving away anything in the narration. Plot twists remain carefully cloaked, right up to the action.

The only criticism I would offer, and this is reflective of my penchant for crime novels, is that the last about half hour of the audio (about 10-12 pages) could have easily been left off. I'll leave it at that so as not to inadvertently reveal anything. But feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you think if you read or listen to the book. I highly recommend it. Yes, it's an investment of time, but an investment I have no regrets for making. What an incredible story! This one will stay with me for a long time to come.

Listen to a short excerpt of the audio:

The Goldfinch is available unabridged from Hachette Audio (ISBN: 9781600247118). It's also available in hardcover from Little Brown (ISBN: 978-0316055437).


For more about - Alaska Grizzly Bear Tours, click here January 23, 2014 at 1:28 AM  

Absolutely wonderful writing. She takes years to write. The result is beautiful, albeit tedious at times, consistency. If you love art history you'll love the bird.

Anonymous June 5, 2014 at 2:22 AM  

I travel many hours on the road and listen to four or five hours at a time. I agree with you that this book was wonderful and that the reader/actor was one of the best I've ever encountered. I could imagine having read the book rather than listened and would have been tempted to skip some details that David Pittu brought to life. I think I got much more out of it because of his talent. I disagree about the last pages. I think they are the crucial explanation of the "why" of the central obsession. And beautifully encapsulated at the end.

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