Usually, when I finish a book of this magnitude, I like to ruminate on it for a day or so, playing the pages back in my memory, forming my review in my head. Making sure I hit all the major points I want to hit.
I just finished The Goldfinch this evening, but I felt that I would try to sum up my experience with this 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner. No doubt this is beautiful prose, a work of art akin to the painting which is the book’s namesake. The span of years which the story covers paints Theo Decker’s life in detailed strokes, so that by the end, we know him fully and understand him and his demons. First, as a child, dealing with a tragedy and learning to make his way in the world on his own. Then, as a teenager, uprooted once again and falling in with a lifelong friend. Finally, as an adult, where he must face the consequences of his poor choices. And throughout – the painting which shapes his life.
Much can probably be made of the painting of The Goldfinch as a metaphor throughout the novel. Is Theo the Goldfinch? Is it his mother? Is it Pippa? Is it really just a painting? If I had a high school English class to bounce this off of, I would.
Is this book for everyone? I would say no. First of all, you have to commit to 771 pages of sometimes dry, sometimes dense and sometimes dark sections. Some are turned off by Theo’s somewhat shady habits and choices. For a protagonist, he is ripe with flaws. It’s hard to like him sometimes, even though it’s easy to feel bad for him.
It took me a while to get through it, but I feel it was worth my time. As it won a Pulitzer this year, I think there are many others out there who tend to agree with me.