ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

For Your Reading Pleasure: The Goldfinch

Updated on November 11, 2014

I'm on a quest to read as many Pulitzer-prize-winning novels as possible. I've read several at this point: some of exceptional quality, a few of questionable merit. The former usually win out, but at times I find myself disappointed with the selection.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was one of those disappointments: the writing superb; the characters and their motivations baffling.

The protagonist of The Goldfinch, Theo, has a compelling story: a pre-teen boy who has survived a (possible) terrorist bombing of a New York museum in which his mother is killed. Terrified and surrounded by death and destruction the child, at the behest of a dying man, clings to a small and beautiful 17th century painting of a goldfinch chained to its perch (a real masterpiece painted in the last year of his life by Carel Fabritius (1622-1654)), beloved of his mother.

Following his mother death, rejected by his paternal grandparents as a ward, Theo is fostered by an aloof New York family-of-means until his absentee father can be found. Once the father comes on the scene, Theo is whisked away to the foreign and superficial world of Las Vegas where the boy sinks into a chemically-induced party world before finally escaping back to New York to live with an antiques dealer who happens to be the partner of the man who urged Theo to take the goldfinch painting from the rubble of the bombing. All this while, Theo has kept the painting, hidden.

The book itself is huge: 2" thick, 771 pages of text. The cover is eye-catching (and, once the story is revealed, quite appropriate for the tale).

Told in an intimate first-person narrative, the book promises insight and feeling which are never delivered. The secondary characters are two-dimensional (especially Theo's deadbeat dad, the father's bimbo girlfriend, and even Theo's best friend Boris, who is so stereotypically "Russian" as to be laughable). Why Theo keeps the painting, even as he learns the penalties he will face if caught, is unclear - he rarely thinks about the work of art and looks at it even less. He never quite seems to find his moral compass in life - which may be realistic and expected, given the boy's history, but is ultimately disappointing.

Although I have not yet read The Secret History, I understand it is a superior book to The Goldfinch.

What do you think about The Goldfinch?

See results

Are there any Pulitzer-prize-winning novels you didn't like?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • dbitterman profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @tracy-arizmendi: I was so surprised when this won the Pulitzer...I just didn't get it.

    • tracy-arizmendi profile image

      Tracy Arizmendi 

      7 years ago from Northern Virginia

      Glad I came across your review of this book, because I had thought about reading several times before but always hesitated to purchase the book. I had this nagging feeling something was off about the book from the summary I read, and it seems my gut was on target. So glad I did not waste my money. Great review btw.

    • dbitterman profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Merrci: Merrci, I think that's a good move. So many [good] little time.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      7 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I'm afraid I'm not crazy about quite a few. Sometimes I just don't agree with what is good about them. Liked you review very much. It's been on my maybe list for a month or so. I may erase it for now. There are so many others to choose from!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)