The Goldfinch

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The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
Hardcover, 1st edition
AuthorDonna Tartt
CountryUnited States
PublishedLittle, Brown and Company
Media typePrint (paperback)
Preceded byThe Little Friend
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The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
Hardcover, 1st edition
AuthorDonna Tartt
CountryUnited States
PublishedLittle, Brown and Company
Media typePrint (paperback)
Preceded byThe Little Friend
The titular painting, The Goldfinch (1654), by Carel Fabritius

The Goldfinch is the Pulitzer Prize-winning third novel from Donna Tartt, her first new book in 11 years.[1][2] In February 2013, the New York Observer announced that Tartt's long-awaited third novel, titled The Goldfinch, was set for publication on October 22, 2013 after originally being slated for publication in September 2008.[3] The book was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.[4]


A thirteen-year-old boy in New York City, Theodore "Theo" Decker, survives a terrorist bombing attack in an art museum that takes the life of his mother (and dozens of other art-loving citizens). His father was not there, having deserted the family some time prior to these events. Theo adored his energetic, beautiful mother - as did many other people in Manhattan - and thinks of his father as an alcoholic, occasionally abusive, and as a thief.

Theo accepts a ring and an enigmatic message given to him by a man, elderly Welton "Welty" Blackwell, who dies in the rubble of the explosion. Theo is willing to unravel the puzzle, because (before the bomb went off) he had found himself fascinated by a red-headed girl, Pippa, also at the Museum that day and who was somehow related to the old man, and on her account, he will grant the dying man's last request. Believing that the old man, Welty, is pointing at a painting (The Goldfinch) on the wall, Theo takes that also in his panicked escape. The taking of these items - one handed over freely, a family heirloom, the other a literally "priceless" painting by Carel Fabritius - was done by Theo in a state of terror, concussion, and shock, with no ability to reason how these minor-seeming actions would influence the rest of his life.

Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo lives with a school friend, Andy Barbour, and his family (Mr. Barbour, a pleasant man as long as he takes his prescribed medication; Mrs. Barbour, a seemingly chilly but kind socialite who likes Theo; Platt, the oldest son, a boarding school bully; Andy, 14, a genius nerd; Kitsey, 9, "a candyfloss Disney Princess"; and Toddy, the youngest, who, Theo learns many years later, decided at an early age to join local government to assist disadvantaged youths, because he was impressed by Theo's disastrous background). Theo lives in the Barbours' elegant house for several months and is fairly happy there (despite his continuing nightmares and posttraumatic stress disorder). Unbeknownst to the Barbours, Theo has carried out the last wishes of the dying man ("Welty") and becomes friends with James "Hobie" Hobart, Welty's partner. Mrs. Barbour, who has always seemed rather "icy" to Theo, but is much fonder of him than he realized, generously invites him to join the family for their summer holidays in Maine. Theo is delighted.

These dreams, of reading books and goofing off with Andy, shatter when his deadbeat dad, Larry Decker, along with Larry's new girlfriend, Xandra, show up at the Barbours' estate and whisks him (and the painting) away to Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, Theo feels rootless. He is surprised by the new chumminess of his father, who earns a living and pays for a large home outside Vegas with gambling wins. He is also pleased to make a new friend, Boris, who sits next to him in literature class. After a discussion in class of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, which they like and many classmates dislike, they become best friends. This means that, in light of the fact that they both have absentee parents, they spend most of their afternoons drinking beer or vodka, feeding themselves from shoplifted store groceries, using marijuana and other illegal drugs, talking from night to dawn, and giving friendship to Popper, Xandra's neglected Maltese puppy.

But Larry Decker, the gambling father, who is generous while winning, finds himself in debt to a crime syndicate to the amount of $50,000. He begs Theo to phone a New York attorney in order to request some funds; the attorney, Mr. Bracegirdle, smells a rat and tells Theo that he cannot release any funds. Events move rapidly then: Knowing that thugs are after him, Larry gets drunk and heads west from Vegas, then dies in a car collision. It is unclear whether this is mere poor luck or whether the organized crime ring arranged it. At any rate, Theo knows he must leave town at once, or be trapped in some Nevada Family Services nightmare. Theo and Boris steal some money from Xandra (Theo also reclaims some earrings belonging to his own mother, which his father had stolen and given to Xandra), and Boris finds a stash of cocaine, which Boris steals. Theo is determined to run away that night. Boris begs him to stay one more day (for excellent reasons explained hundreds of pages later), but Theo wants to return to New York, and his friends, that minute. When his pleas go unheard, Boris kisses Theo and lets him go.

After a bus ride across the country, filled with tension because Theo has decided to bring Popper (No animals on the bus!), Theo returns to New York. He sees Mr. Barbour on the street and has great relief and hope, but Barbour (no longer on his medications), acts wildly and shuns him. Theo then shows up at Hobie's door, and at this point is shivering and delirious with influenza. Pippa is there, as well as Hobie, and they welcome him and give him a place to stay. Years later, Theo has become a full partner in Hobart's antiques and furniture-repairing business.

Tartt informs her readers that eight years have passed - making Theo 26 years old at the time he is writing the confessional novel - and Theo has new troubles. He is addicted to prescribed medications, which he buys on the street. He has saved Hobie from bankruptcy, but he did so by selling faked pieces of furniture, and now one of those buyers (Lucius Reeve) is attempting blackmail. Reeve has figured out that Theo was in the same museum room with The Goldfinch and wants it for himself.

Theo is racked by guilt over selling fakes, but he is also preoccupied with his wedding arrangements with Kitsey Barbour. (Theo never stopped loving Pippa, but he learns that Kitsey has never stopped loving Tom Cable, a criminal teenager with whom Theo attended high school.)

While these nerve-wracking events occur, Boris reappears in Theo's life. Boris admits that he had stolen the painting The Goldfinch back in high school, which Theo never realized, as he'd stashed what he thought was the painting in a storage facility. Boris honestly believes that the painting deserves to remain with Theo, who for a long time has been racking his brains to figure out how to return The Goldfinch to the proper authorities.

Now Boris has a plan to return The Goldfinch to Theo. The plan involves flying to Amsterdam and meeting with men who are holding the painting; Boris and his henchmen show up with guns and take both the painting and the bad guys' guns. However, when they return to their rendezvous point, enemies appear. There is a shoot-out, during which Boris is shot in the arm and Theo shoots the killer. Despite this dramatic climax to the novel, both Boris and Theo end up wealthy because they are able to announce to the art recovery police that they have information about some of the missing paintings, and they are richly rewarded.


The Dutch translation of The Goldfinch (Het puttertje) was published a full month before the English edition, to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Daily newspaper de Volkskrant printed a five star review and called it 'a Bildungsroman written in a beautiful and often scintilating style. (...) A rich novel and an impressive reflection on sadness and solace. And about the crucial, timeless role of art therein.' [5] De Limburger and Cutting Edge[6] also gave five star reviews with De Limburger suggesting "Donna Tartt has written the best novel of 2013. It will completely blow you away." [7] Another Dutch newspaper, Het Parool [8] sums it up as a 'beautiful, exciting novel, filled with fascinating characters'. Belgian weekly magazine HUMO [9] called it the book of the year and the news website praised Tartt as a 'writing magician who is generous with detours, reflections and characters.'[10] Praise also comes from Elsevier notes "Donna Tartt’s third novel is worth all the commotion. The master storyteller is back! Het puttertje is superior literary entertainment." [11] Nederlands Dagblad also commends the writing in the novel, saying "In Donna Tartt’s new novel, nothing is just there. Everything is connected in a subtle way, every detail matters. This is a beautifully written tragedy, with some lighter moments." [12] While Trouw [13] compares The Goldfinch to the The Secret History and The Little Friend—"Donna Tartt’s new novel, like her two previous books, is filled with strong emotions and experiences, caused by human interactions and drinking and drug abuse. Tartt writes about these matters in a breathtakingly elegant manner." However, NRC Handelsblad only rated the book two out of five stars,[14] writing that it was 'like reading a twenty-first-century variant on Dickens', with the characters being 'cliché' and not fleshed-out.[15] Vrij Nederland and De Groene Amsterdammer were also critical, arguing that the book was too drawn out.[16] "De Telegraaf" argues that it is a "rich, very readable novel." [17] This is echoed by Financieele Dagblad's assessment that "Donna Tartt is an extraordinary writer and Het puttertje is a beautiful and rich novel." [18]

The Goldfinch was published in English by Little, Brown and Company on October 22, 2013; the Swedish edition also appeared in October.[19][20] The Italian edition was published by Rizzoli Editore on March 12, 2014. Publication in Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Spain will follow in 2014.[21] Early reviews from the US have praised the novel, with the trade publications Kirkus and Booklist both giving starred reviews. Kirkus describes The Goldfinch as “a standout” [22] while Booklist comments “Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art.”[23] Stephen King has also admired the novel writing "Donna Tartt is an amazingly good writer ... it’s very good."[24]

Further reviews in the U.S. have celebrated The Goldfinch, with Michiko Kakutani praising the Dickensian elements in her rave review for The New York Times commenting "Ms. Tartt has made Fabritius's bird the MacGuffin at the center of her glorious, Dickensian novel, a novel that pulls together all her remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading."[25]

Woody Brown wrote a laudatory review for, describing it as a "marvelous, epic tale, one whose 773 beautiful pages say, in short: 'How can we? And yet, we do.'" Brown added, "Major plot points — in fact, every change in the story that matters — are dictated by apparently random chance. But this ostensible arbitrariness cannot be reconciled with the truth; namely, that Theo's life has a poetic trajectory, that he is often saved in one way or another, that a chance convenient meeting on the street can (and does, several times) forever alter his existence." Brown concluded, "This novel is an extraordinary achievement, one completely bereft of any vanity on the part of the author or anything apart from the demands that truly great fiction makes on its vessel."[26]

Awards and honors[edit]

Amazon selected the novel as the 2013 Best Book of the Year.[27] It was shortlisted for 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.[28][29] It was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (2014).[30] It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014.[31]


  1. ^ Flood, Alison (13 February 2013). "Donna Tartt to publish first novel for 11 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  2. ^ The Pulitzer Prizes | Citation
  3. ^ Donna Tartt’s Long Awaited Third Novel Will Be Published This Year | New York Observer
  4. ^ New York Times (2013). "The 10 Best Books of 2013". Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Het puttertje | Fictie | Boeken Volkskrant
  6. ^ Cutting Edge | Donna Tartt, 'Het puttertje'
  7. ^ Dagblad De Limburger - Limburgs Dagblad
  8. ^ Arensman, D. “Tartt op haar best, met een grande finale,” Het Parool, September 26, 2013
  9. ^ Donna Tartt schrijft het boek van het jaar - Humo: The Wild Site
  10. ^ Donna Tartt - Het puttertje | | Het laatste nieuws het eerst op
  11. ^ Cultuur | Elsevier Exclusief
  12. ^ Nederlands Dagblad
  13. ^ Soeting, M. “Explosief Puttertje,” Trouw, September 28, 2013
  14. ^ Nieuwe Donna Tartt een hype. Alle Nederlandse interviews en recensies op een rij -
  15. ^ NRC Handelsblad van zaterdag 21 september 2013 | Digitale editie
  16. ^ Nieuwe Donna Tartt een hype. Alle Nederlandse interviews en recensies op een rij / Deel 2 -
  17. ^ Jong, A. de “Hollandse meester was muze,” de Telegraaf, September 24, 2013
  18. ^ cookie consent
  19. ^ The Goldfinch - Hachette Book Group
  20. ^ Steglitsan - Albert Bonniers Förlag
  21. ^ The Goldfinch
  22. ^ THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt | Kirkus
  23. ^ Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt | Booklist Online
  24. ^ Stephen King slams 'Twilight' as 'tweenager porn' - NY Daily News
  25. ^
  26. ^ Brown, Woody (2014). "Book Review: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt". Art Voice 13 (8). Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  27. ^ Best Books of 2013: Books
  28. ^ Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  29. ^ Admin (January 14, 2014). "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  30. ^ Mark Brown (7 April 2014). "Donna Tartt heads Baileys women's prize for fiction 2014 shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
  31. ^ "2014 Pulitzer Winners in Journalism and Arts". 14 April 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 

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