The Goldfinch and Ann

It has been four years since the Pocket Bookclub lost our lovely thoughtful clever Ann. Her last gift to us was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I wrote this blog post back then and it has sat in my drafts because I couldn’t bring myself to post it. Now is the time. Thank you, Ann, we still miss you.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has been sitting on my bookshelf for some years. I picked it up second-hand thinking I should read it. Despite winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2014, I had heard mixed things about it. I did not love Tartt’s previous book, The Secret History and The Goldfinch is such a huge book that I was unsure if I wanted to commit my time to it.

Along comes the Pocket Book Club and Ann who selects it for our April read.

Now it will always be Ann’s book. Sometimes a book’s time is right.

It is hard to know where to start. It has taken me a long time to finish this post.

This is a book about mortality. It focuses on Theodore growing into manhood after tragically and violently losing his mother. Tartt does a great job of setting up story questions to keep you reading. How did his mother die? Why does he blame himself? You want to know that from page one and the question is soon enough answered and replaced with another one. One that will carry you through the rest of the book.

Theodore’s loss will take him from his beloved New York to the desert of Las Vegas and back again. All the while, you will be worried about ‘the painting’ – The Goldfinch, so exquisitely described.

There were times when the length of the book gets in the way. It could be shorter. There are extraneous bits. But the Pocket Bookclub is forgiving because something happened while we read Ann’s book.

As I said, this book is about mortality, it says, people will pass but that great Art is immortal.

This leaves us wondering if Ann chose this book on purpose. Ann had lived with death more than most people care to imagine. Ann did not make it to Bookclub to discuss her chosen book with us. She missed it by two days.

This quote and The Goldfinch will always be for Ann.

“And I feel I have something very serious and urgent to say to you, my nonexistent reader, and I feel I should say it urgently as if I were standing in the room with you. That life – whatever else it is – is short…That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always glad to be here, it is our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade right into the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open”

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

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