What’s it about: A suspenseful and heart-wrenching tale of a young boy’s struggle to survive on his own. At 13, Theo Decker is visiting a museum in New York with his mother when a bomb goes off and kills her. Wandering dazed through the wreckage, Theo picks up a small painting of a goldfinch that was his mother ’s favourite work of art. It turns out to be a priceless masterpiece that draws him into the dangerous underbelly of the art world, with terrifying consequences.
Why we love it: The Goldfinch is a powerful book peopled with vivid characters, breathtaking prose and Donna Tartt’s signature nail-biting moments of suspense. This book is one of the most hotly anticipated thrillers this year from literary superstar Tartt (it’s been 21 years since her astonishing debut, The Secret History, and eleven years since her last book).
The inspiration: Tartt is fascinated by the blurred lines between the cultured elite and the criminal class. “I love a variety of registers and textures in fiction — the contrast between polish and roughness, sweeps from high to low, art dealers and drug dealers. It’s a fallacy to think that culture is civilizing — that we are somehow better people because we appreciate a certain symphony or painting.” As for her writing, Tartt says she wants readers to feel what Vladimir Nabokov called the tingle at the top of the spine.
Book Club “Chat” sheet:
1. The influence of art and culture on society and how they shape our perception of others.
2. Coping with loss.
3. Our universal fascination with the thriller genre.
4. Tartt’s dexterity as a master of suspense.
About the author
Born: Greenwood, Mississippi
Behind the scenes: Famous for her reclusiveness, Tartt hadn’t given an interview about herself or her writing for a decade — until the debut of The Goldfinch.
On her writing: “My compositional technique as a six-year-old was to cut pictures from National Geographic (usually of animals or children in different countries), then write my story about the pictures. One of my first books featured the famous Infanta painting by Velázquez, so I think it’s funny that with The Goldfinch, I’m going back to my childhood technique of choosing a picture and writing a story around it.”
What’s next: “I’ve got an idea I’m excited about, but I can’t talk about it — I’m superstitious.”