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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Literary fiction

The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

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Quick take

Don't let the length discourage you: The 700 pages of this part coming-of-age, part survival story fly right on by.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_WellKnownAuthor

    Famous author

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NowAMovie

    Now a movie

Synopsis

Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by a longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into a wealthy and insular art community.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

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Get an early look from the first pages of The Goldfinch.
The Goldfinch

Chapter 1.

Boy with a Skull

i.

While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. I’d been shut up in my hotel for more than a week, afraid to telephone anybody or go out; and my heart scrambled and floundered at even the most innocent noises: elevator bell, rattle of the minibar cart, even church clocks tolling the hour, de Westertoren, Krijtberg, a dark edge to the clangor, an inwrought fairy-tale sense of doom. By day I sat on the foot of the bed straining to puzzle out the Dutch-language news on television (which was hopeless, since I knew not a word of Dutch) and when I gave up, I sat by the window staring out at the canal with my camel’s-hair coat thrown over my clothes—for I’d left New York in a hurry and the things I’d brought weren’t warm enough, even indoors.

Outside, all was activity and cheer. It was Christmas, lights twinkling on the canal bridges at night; red-cheeked dames en heren, scarves flying in the icy wind, clattered down the cobblestones with Christmas trees lashed to the backs of their bicycles. In the afternoons, an amateur band played Christmas carols that hung tinny and fragile in the winter air.

Chaotic room-service trays; too many cigarettes; lukewarm vodka from duty free. During those restless, shut-up days, I got to know every inch of the room as a prisoner comes to know his cell. It was my first time in Amsterdam; I’d seen almost nothing of the city and yet the room itself, in its bleak, drafty, sunscrubbed beauty, gave a keen sense of Northern Europe, a model of the Netherlands in miniature: whitewash and Protestant probity, co-mingled with deep-dyed luxury brought in merchant ships from the East. I spent an unreasonable amount of time scrutinizing a tiny pair of gilt-framed oils hanging over the bureau, one of peasants skating on an ice-pond by a church, the other a sailboat flouncing on a choppy winter sea: decorative copies, nothing special, though I studied them as if they held, encrypted, some key to the secret heart of the old Flemish masters. Outside, sleet tapped at the windowpanes and drizzled over the canal; and though the brocades were rich and the carpet was soft, still the winter light carried a chilly tone of 1943, privation and austerities, weak tea without sugar and hungry to bed.

Early every morning while it was still black out, before the extra clerks came on duty and the lobby started filling up, I walked downstairs for the newspapers. The hotel staff moved with hushed voices and quiet footsteps, eyes gliding across me coolly as if they didn’t quite see me, the American man in 27 who never came down during the day; and I tried to reassure myself that the night manager (dark suit, crew cut, horn-rimmed glasses) would probably go to some lengths to avert trouble or avoid a fuss.

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Member ratings (5,816)

  • Jen C.

    Indianapolis, IN

    This was an epic book! Although it is long, the story is incredible and it makes the length worth it. The Goldfinch is written so lyrically - it is pleasant to read. 5/5 ⭐️ and I am happy I read it.

  • Kelly T.

    Cumberland, RI

    A lot packed into 771 pages. You forget that the narrator is actually “writing” the book. Such a wild ride of a life and a story Theo and Donna Tartt tell the reader. It lives up to the hype a must!

  • Kirsten M.

    Chattanooga, TN

    I really charged through this modern classic. While I can’t quite tell you WHY I couldn’t put it down besides the fact that the author is a good writer, I did fall for Theo and want the best for him.

  • Courtney C.

    Salt Lake City, UT

    This book was fantastic. I absolutely adored this book. I couldn’t stop reading it! The attention to detail, the storyline, the characters... It is all astounding! I can not recommend this book enough

  • Hope M.

    Conifer, CO

    This book was great. I love really long books, and this one is long...but it didn’t feel like it, I didn’t want to put it down. Really interesting, sad, charming. End leaves you pondering for sure.

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