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The Art Of Storytelling
on 27 June 2014
I must admit I approached Donna Tartt’s latest novel with a good deal of trepidation. After all, this was my most anticipated (new) novel ever (even surpassing the 'latest’ Auster or Roth) – in the wake of two masterpieces could she pull it off again? I’m pleased to say that, though (for me) The Goldfinch does not quite live up to the levels of focused and immersive characterisation of The Secret History or The Little Friend, its greater levels of ambition (and 'epicness’) are (almost) fully realised.
Once again, Tartt’s prose and storytelling ability are confirmed (in my book) as second to none amongst modern authors. She turns the 'coming of age’ tale of 13-year old Theo Decker and his early family bereavement (and purloining of 17th century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius’ eponymous artwork) into an, admittedly, at times, rather meandering, but by turns thrilling, touching and philosophical voyage through loneliness, parenthood, unrequited love, friendship, superficiality, sin and spirituality, whose scope is Dickensian in its expansiveness. And, although the page-turning compulsiveness of The Goldfinch’s first 200 or so pages has waned slightly by the time Tartt 'jump-cuts’ her story eight years forward, she has managed (once again) to deliver some deliciously (and increasingly) compelling characterisations – not least her central pairing of the sensitive Theo and his alter-ego, the care-free 'Russian’ Boris, together with mother and son, the ultimately kind Mrs Barbour and eccentric Andy (whose family provide refuge to Theo), kindly 'antiques dealer’ Hobie and Theo’s 'secret love’, Pippa (links to Great Expectations, maybe?).
And just when you might have thought that Tartt’s relatively restrained conclusion might result in her tale rather petering out, she ties up her 'loose ends’ (linking Theo’s outlook on life with Fabritius’ painting) with as poignant and profound an ending as I’ve read in ages. Here’s to the next decade of waiting for Tartt to put 'pen to paper’ again.