Instaread Summary, Analysis & Review of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch
Four out of five stars
This summary does exactly what summaries should do, it provides enough information so that the reader can easily make the read/don’t read decision. The story opens with thirteen-year-old Theodore Decker (Theo) visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother. When a terrorist bomb explodes in the museum, his mother is killed and an injured man gives Theo a ring and begs him to remove the painting called “The Goldfinch” from the wall and take it out of the museum.
From this point, Theo’s life is one of instability and uncertainty as he moves from place to place with the painting and becomes reconnected with his gambling, alcoholic father. His life becomes one of substance abuse and encounters with unsavory characters, including murderous gangsters. The book follows Theo’s life through these trials until there is some form of life modification where he once again has hope.
While there does not appear to be a complex plot, there also does not seem to be an interesting one. Theo has problems to be sure, but at least from the summary there appears to be no fire in this particular literary furnace. In the description of the plot, the latter parts of the book are described as almost incidental. This is reinforced by the following segment from the “Author’s style” section.
“The last section of the book contains some particularly dubious decisions on Tartt’s part. The section in Amsterdam, which feels alien, rushed, and confused compared to everything that came before it, can be construed as a reflection of the experience it describes, which is itself alienating, rushed, and confusing.”
At no point in this summary did I ever reach the point where I considered the book to be interesting, some of the relationship events come across as too contrived to be believable. Creating a character that suffers from substance abuse is now a very common literary tactic, it is reaching the point of being overused.