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The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt
Little, Brown, and Company, 784 pp., $30

One of the supreme pleasures for the fiction enthusiast is the immersive power of a novel to enthrall the reader so successfully that when the reverie finally breaks, the coffee's gone cold and the lengthy shadows of twilight approach.

So it is with Donna Tartt's novel, The Goldfinch, her first new work in 11 years. Fans of The Secret History, Tartt's 1992 debut about pagan shenanigans at an elite college in Vermont, will be right at home here, as the author retains her skill of drawing the reader into a briskly paced story of erudite prose.

Taking more than a few pages from Dickens, Tartt weaves a bildungsroman of fate and coincidence, of tragic reversals and fortuitous convergences. Theo Decker is a 13-year-old who becomes unmoored when his mother is killed in a New York museum bombing of which he is one of the few survivors. After impulsively stealing the titular painting (by 17th century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius) in the chaotic aftermath of the explosion, Theo is placed in the home of a society family on Park Avenue before being whisked away by his deadbeat dad to the desolate, eerily empty suburban sprawl of Las Vegas.

Theo's journey eventually takes him into the international art and antiques black market, full of dangerous Ukrainian gangsters and double-crossing junkies. But through it all, Theo clings to his illicit goldfinch, his only respite against the loneliness and aching loss of his mother. With meditations on art, addiction, and finding meaning in a soulless world, The Goldfinch is a triumph – mandatory reading for any serious bibliophile.

Perfect for: brooding art history majors, antiquarians, fans of curling up

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