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The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
by Donna Tartt

Published: 2013-10-22
Hardcover : 775 pages
213 members reading this now
459 clubs reading this now
171 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 9 of 13 members
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

"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....Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction."--Stephen King, The New York ...
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Introduction

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

"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....Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction."--Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review

Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love--and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2013: It's hard to articulate just how much--and why--The Goldfinch held such power for me as a reader.  Always a sucker for a good boy-and-his-mom story, I probably was taken in at first by the cruelly beautiful passages in which 13-year-old Theo Decker tells of the accident that killed his beloved mother and set his fate. But even when the scene shifts--first Theo goes to live with his schoolmate’s picture-perfect (except it isn’t) family on Park Avenue, then to Las Vegas with his father and his trashy wife, then back to a New York antiques shop--I remained mesmerized. Along with Boris, Theo’s Ukrainian high school sidekick, and Hobie, one of the most wonderfully eccentric characters in modern literature, Theo--strange, grieving, effete, alcoholic and often not close to honorable Theo--had taken root in my heart.  Still, The Goldfinch is more than a 700-plus page turner about a tragic loss: it’s also a globe-spanning mystery about a painting that has gone missing, an examination of friendship, and a rumination on the nature of art and appearances. Most of all, it is a sometimes operatic, often unnerving and always moving chronicle of a certain kind of life. “Things would have turned out better if she had lived,” Theo said of his mother, fourteen years after she died. An understatement if ever there was one, but one that makes the selfish reader cry out: Oh, but then we wouldn’t have had this brilliant book! --Sara Nelson

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. Donna Tartt has said that the Goldfinch painting was the "guiding spirit" of the book. How so—what do you think she meant? What—or what all—does the painting represent in the novel?

2. David Copperfield famously says in the first line of Dickens's book,

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will beheld by anybody else, these pages must show.

Because of the many comparisons made between Dickens's work and The Goldfinch, that same question could rightfully be asked by Theo Decker. What do you think—is Theo the "hero" of his own life? What, in fact, does it mean to be the "hero" of a novel?

3. Tartt has said that "reading's no good unless it's fun."

The one quality I look for in books (and it's very hard to find), but I love that childhood quality of gleeful, greedy reading, can't-get-enough-of-it, what's-happening-to-these-people, the breathless kind of turning of the pages. That's what I want in a book.

In other words, a good book should propel readers from page to page, in part because they care about the characters. Has Tartt accomplished that in The Goldfinch? Did you find yourself rapidly turning the pages to find find out what happens to the characters? Does the story engage you? And do you care about the characters? If so, which ones?

4. How convincingly does Tartt write about Theo's grief and his survival guilt? Talk about the ways Theo manifests the depth of his loss and his sense of desolation?

5. What do you think of Andy's family: especially Andy himself and Mrs. Barbour? Are we meant to like the family? Is Mrs. Barbour pleased or resentful about having to take Theo in. What about the family as it appears later in the book when Theo re-enters its life? Were you surprised at Mrs. Barbour's reaction to seeing Theo again?

6. Talk about the ways in which the numerous adults at his school try—to no avail, as it turns out—to help Theo work through his grief. If you were one of the grown-ups in Theo's life, what would you do or say differently to him. Is there anything that can be said?

7. Many reviewers have remarked on Boris as the most inventive and vividly portrayed character in the book. How do you feel? Are you as taken with him as both Theo and book reviewers are? Talk about his influence over Theo—was it for better for worse?

8. Readers are obviously meant to find Theo's father negligent and irresponsible, a reprobate. Are you able to identify any redeeming quality in him? What about his girlfriend?

9. Talk about Hobie and how Tartt uses his wood working and restoration as a symbol of his relationship to Theo. How does Theo disappoint him...and why? Theo fears he will, or already has, become like his father. Has he?

10. 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 does Theo's father believe...and what does Theo believe? Do Theo's views by the end of the story?

11. The book also ponders beauty and art. Why is art so important to the human soul? What are its consolations...and what are its dangers? In what ways can we allow ourselves to be trapped by art or beauty? And HOW does this relate to the Goldfinch, the painting at the heart of this story— a painting of a bird chained to its perch and a painting that Theo clings to for 14 years.

12. What do you think the future holds for Theo? Why do you think Tartt left the book's conclusion open as to whether he will end up with Pippa or Kitsy?

13. If you were to cut portions of the book, where would you make those cuts? *

14. If Tartt were to write a sequel of 700+ pages, would you read it? *

--Courtesy of LitLovers

Suggested by Members

The controversy about whether this book is "art" or not.
by wlreader (see profile) 05/17/16

biblical comparison, what characters from other books are Like the ones in this book.
by rachelbmor (see profile) 04/10/15

Theo's relationship/love for his Mother
Theo's perception of Hobie
Theo & Boris = from ages 13 to 31 -
by timothyj4 (see profile) 03/25/15

Who was your favorite character and why?
Can you make any parallels between Theo's possessiveness of "The Goldfinch" & The Hobbit?
If this was made into a film who would you see playing the various characters?
by kevbriril3 (see profile) 09/08/14

How did you react to the comments about the book in "Vanity Fair"?
by globebookclub (see profile) 07/04/14

we used topic questions found on website
by jbc1345 (see profile) 06/23/14

What happens to Pippa? And Boris? And the rest of the Balfour's?
by bbrunelle (see profile) 05/09/14

On Page 7, Theo says that things would have turned out better if his mother had lived. Do you think this is true?
How is Theo like The Goldfinch?
Discuss the ways that Fake/Artificial is pitted against Real/Genuine in the book.
by marilynbarrett (see profile) 01/08/14

Why did Theo's father come to collect him in New York, really?
What created the strong connection between two such disparate individuals as Theo and Boris?
by annsayer (see profile) 10/03/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

"Dazzling....[A] glorious, Dickensian novel, a novel that pulls together all Ms. Tartt's remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading."--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times - See more at:

"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....Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction."--Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review

Book Club Recommendations

Check out the picture
by Mjrock (see profile) 03/22/17
I would google a picture of the painting in the book and have it printed so the readers in book club can better visualize the painting that is the theme of the book.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by dianagraalum (see profile) 07/17/17

 
by wisamyounis (see profile) 07/14/17

 
  "Wordy but good story line"by Mjrock (see profile) 03/22/17

This is a well written book. I didn't give it a five because I thought the book could still tell the story with less words. It is a long book. The story line is fantastic in how it all intertwines. I don't... (read more)

 
  "The Goldfinch"by smokey1 (see profile) 09/24/16

There are excellent scenes and lines in this novel, and I'm glad I read it as a Pulitzer Prize book, but in the end it reminded me of the antique shop the character Hobie runs in in the book:" many amazing,... (read more)

 
by vlrolsma (see profile) 08/24/16

 
  "Pulitzer Prize Committee Asleep at the Wheel"by CathUnit (see profile) 08/18/16

Donna Tart needed a good editor. This story was ridiculously long, poorly written, and I am surprised that it won the Pulitzer.

 
  "The Goldfinch"by wlreader (see profile) 05/17/16

A page-turner with really unusual but well-defined characters. A fun read.

 
by danisimpson21 (see profile) 04/02/16

Very lengthy and unnecessary descriptions throughout entire book which makes for a long and boring read.

 
by nursecarol (see profile) 03/30/16

Drugs and alcohol, especially alcohol, but in this book both, seem to be the coping mechanisms of most protagonists in the current lit. It is so depressing! But Theo does grow and redeem which are two... (read more)

 
by Speakes5 (see profile) 03/24/16

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