Alright, the time has arrived to discuss The Goldfinch., which I loved. As you may have seen via social media, I completed Donna Tartt’s 800 page (or 32 hour audio book) The Goldfinch this past Saturday morning…just in time for the LYBI Book Club discussion today. As you may or may not know, we’ve got a monthly book club going over here where I post what I’ll be reading that month, and then I’ll host a discussion (or link to a discussion that’s already happening somewhere).
So I think it goes without saying, if you haven’t read The Goldfinch and still plan to, you probably don’t want to read this post just yet. SPOILERS BELOW. But finish reading and come back to discuss with us later! I’ll still be here, and I’m HAPPY to discuss this book. I really enjoyed it.
So here we go. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the following (feel free to number your comment to correspond to the discussion point). Or you can talk about anything else that struck you about the book, and your thoughts.
1. I think one of the most discussed things about The Goldfinch (TG) is the characters and how they develop. What do you think of Theo (or as David and I say, “Potturrr” in a Russian accent), Boris, Hobie, and Pippa? Do you care about the characters? If so, which ones?
My response: I was quickly enamored with Boris, and he was probably the most stand out character for me. Theo was so wrapped up in everything Boris, it was a true testament to friendship I think–even a very damaging friendship at times. I kept thinking, “Theo–don’t trust Boris!”, particularly later on. Even the last time we see them together though, I was still incredibly happy when Boris arrived at their rendezvous point. Their young friendship revolved around their unsettling mutual love of vodka and drugs (which got a little hard to hear for me), but it wasn’t unrealistic, which I appreciated. I think Hobie was incredibly kind-hearted and maybe too forgiving at times. I wanted him to just blow up at Theo sometimes, but yeah, he wouldn’t have done that. His furniture repair to me symbolized his relationship with Theo, constantly trying to repair and remake this “damaged” good. Okay, I also had a total soft spot for Xandra’s dog, Popper. When they traveled and he kept him in the box–loved that!
2. Speaking of characters, what do you think of Andy’s family: especially Andy himself and Mrs. Barbour? Are we meant to like the family? What about the family as it appears later in the book when Theo re-enters its life?
My response: I’m pretty sure I liked them all from the get-go. Theo’s situation is so horrible you’re just hoping that someone will take him in and take care of him. I don’t think I really saw Mrs. Barber’s love for Theo until his father arrived and she appeared pretty overprotective, which I appreciated. I was surprised when Andy and his father died, but after a minute or two of thinking how tragic Theo’s whole life is, it kind of made sense. I’m not sure why, but I felt like the Barber’s were totally relate-able.
3. Tartt asks us to consider whether or not our world is orderly, whether events follow a pattern (which could indicate an underlying meaning), or whether everything that happens is simply random—like the explosion that killed Theo’s mother. What do you think?
My response: David and I had a loooong discussion about this at dinner when we both finished the book. The Theo/Boris life discussions in the end are some of the most profound reading that really “took” both of us. While we debated the whole, “everything happens for a reason” belief, and a lot of other beliefs about predestination and good and evil, we simply came back to the fact that, “we actually have no idea”. Then I started scaring myself and talking like my dad about, “what do we even know about time?”, so I quickly shut up. :)
4. What do you make of The Goldfinch– a painting of a bird chained to its perch and a painting that Theo clings to for 14 years.
My response: I think it’s exactly that. I was so shocked and let down I guess by the fact that Theo didn’t even actually have the painting that he’d spent his young life worrying about. In some ways I think, “Boris saved him and kept him out of trouble” (by stealing the painting), and then I think, “Boris continues to ruin Theo by fostering Theo’s attachment to this piece”. So it’s exactly that–Theo chained to this thing that comes and go’s.
5. If you were to cut portions of the book, where would you make those cuts?
My response: Yes. And Yes. There were a lot of portions that really drug on and on. No pun intended. There were a lot of parts that at the time, I felt like, “c’mon, get on with it”, like Theo and Kitsy making their wedding registry, and Hobie teaching Theo about wood and furniture (ah, hellloo…I don’t caaaaarrree), but looking back, I see why some development was needed in those places. But did it need to be so detailed? Don’t think so. A lot of people hated the inner monologues and Theo-self-talk, but I really appreciated that.
Okay, now I’m dying to know– what did you think? Let me know in the comments–you can talk about the questions or just simply talk about your experience with the book.
And it’s not too late to join us for April’s Book Club Selection, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? It’s pretty short and so far, it’s a nice light read, which is exactly what I needed after The Goldfinch. Here’s the synopsis:
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
We’ll be discussing it here on April 30th!