The last fifteen hours have taken me on a mesmerizing journey. Since Saturday is one of my travel blog days it is good to have a fascinating and what turned out to be an unstoppable reading adventure to share. I picked up The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt at 1:00AM and finished minutes ago almost exactly at 3:00PM. The Goldfinch is described as a literary novel and it also happens to have won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013. Love this book…love it love it love it.
Literary novels are not my go-to reading matter which tends to be histories, travel literature and crime/mystery novels. This is not to deny that some of my greatest reading hours have not been spent nose deep in some great works of—mostly American but a few British, Russian, Australian and soon-Norwegian—literary fiction.
The Goldfinch has all of the ingredients I need for a reading binge: a fascinating, and engagingly flawed protagonist and his, in some ways, even more uniquely-construed sidekick for much of the book. The other main actors in this unlikely but believable (barely) drama range from stellar to all-too-human but they are generally an appealing lot.
Because Time and Place is a travel blog, let me make an extra mention of the story’s geography which is much to my liking with vivid descriptions of cultured Manhattan, uncultured Las Vegas and even some clear and bright pictures of Amsterdam at Christmas. Having spent time in New York, the desert southwest and Amsterdam, I can attest to the clear descriptive eye…and nose and ears and taste buds of the author.
To further add to my all-night reading pleasure there is a mystery and there are some criminals, let’s call them art gangsters. They are not a huge part of the story—or The Goldfinch would edge over into crime fiction wouldn’t it and I probably would have read it even sooner.
In case you haven’t read The Goldfinch yet the story goes something like this: A young boy and his mother are visiting an important Manhattan museum when there is a massive explosion, killing many including the mother. The boy makes it out with a tiny but priceless painting in hand. The intent is not to steal it exactly but in his dazed state and with the beautiful object literally next to him it happens. This beautiful and famous painting (it is a real painting) of The Goldfinch provides the framework upon which the tale is hung. This is Theo’s story from his childhood through roughly his mid-thirties. The locales shift as Theo lives somewhat briefly with the Park Avenue family of a school friend, and meets the person who will eventually come to mean the most to him, an antique dealer/furniture restorer. All too soon his ne’er-do-well father comes to claim him for the Las Vegas years where he leads a wildly undisciplined and drug and booze-logged existence for a high school kid. Best-friend-for-life, the unusual Boris, is his partner in all things good and bad in the barrenness of life in a nearly deserted subdivision on the outskirts of Vegas.
Eventually Theo winds up back in Manhattan to make his more-or-less permanent home with Hobie the furniture restorer—he has always been in love with Hobie’s grand-niece who was seriously injured in the same explosion that killed Theo’s mom which complicates his already way-too-complicated life. The plot thickens with more drugs, always more drugs; reconnecting with what remains of his Park Avenue family; his legal and illegal antique dealings and the ongoing issue of The Goldfinch which has become more albatross than songbird or painting by this time.
Fifteen hours with a good book can never be a bad thing although this was not part of the Saturday plan. It happened like this. During the course of a lovely visit with my poetry friend last evening, I drank more than one glass of wine. Friday night busy week past why not.
When I drink wine in the evening I wake up in the middle of the night. When I wake up in the middle of the night I read. When I wake up in the middle of the night and get into a really good book I read all night. When I wake up in the middle of the night and read a good book all night and don’t have to go to work the next day I keep reading until I finish the book.
I think of it as ‘dropping out’ for a day (or an occasional weekend). And being a drop-out now and again is a mentally restorative activity. Remember ‘turn on, tune in, drop out?’ You can pretty much accomplish all of that with a good book, flannel pjs and some leftover Brownies and Caramel sauce.