After 13-year-old Theo Decker miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the underworld of art.
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 … It’s a work that shows us how many emotional octaves Ms. Tartt can now reach, how seamlessly she can combine the immediate and tactile with more wide-angled concerns … Ms. Tartt is adept at harnessing all the conventions of the Dickensian novel — including startling coincidences and sudden swerves of fortune — to lend Theo’s story a stark, folk-tale dimension as well as a visceral appreciation of the randomness of life and fate’s sometimes cruel sense of humor.
The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. I read it with that mixture of terror and excitement I feel watching a pitcher carry a no-hitter into the late innings. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of The Goldfinch, they never do … Surprisingly few novelists write well of grief, but Tartt — whose language is dense, allusive and so vivid it’s intoxicating — does it as well as it can be done … Tartt depicts the friendship of these two cast-adrift adolescent boys with a clarity of observation I would have thought next to impossible for a writer who was never part of that closed male world … The Goldfinch is a triumph with a brave theme running through it: art may addict, but art also saves us from ‘the ungainly sadness of creatures pushing and struggling to live.’
The Goldfinch is a virtual baby: it clutches and releases the most fantastical toys. Its tone, language, and story belong to children’s literature … To be fair, Tartt has considerable talents in the field of magical misdirection...but misdirection is practiced evasion, and narrative secrets are tested by the value of their revelations: we will need, as bounty, more than the prestidigitator’s ace of spades … Through all this thrashing, twisting, gulping, choking, gasping, coughing, cursing, plunging, sputtering, and floundering, I kept on trying to imagine a different novel, stripped of its unreasonable raison d’être and its childish sweets.