In light of what happened in Manchester recently, I found myself re-reading the beginning parts of this book. Particularly when we witness the character Theo lose his mother to a bomb that went off in the museum they were visiting. We see him go through a self-flagellation of sorts and grieve for all the things that he could’ve done and should’ve done to stop it from happening. I’m imagining the parents of those victims right now, who are probably going through the same thing. They’re probably thinking, ‘if only I didn’t let them go to the concert. If only I asked them to go to a different pickup spot. Because then, they wouldn’t be where the bomber was.
The truth is, besides divine intervention (if one believes in such a thing), there was nothing anyone could’ve done to stop it. Terrorists can’t be swayed after all. They’re driven by one thing, and one thing only: their fanatic ideology.
For a brief moment, Theo went through the same thing. His mother was his best friend. But it was because of his troubles at school and a consequent summon from the principal that had them taking a pitstop at the museum. If he’d kept his nose clean, his mom would’ve been at work and not at the museum with him when the bomb went off.
You can say that it was the starting point of his story. A dot that grew into a series of dizzying circles for which it begins and ends with a small painting called The Goldfinch. While he was trying to escape the ruins of the smouldering museum, an old man who would serve as a catalyst to everything in his life gave him the painting as he lay dying. And while he had every intention of giving it back, the painting would remain with him throughout the course of his life until it was too late to give it back. Because he would realize that the painting would be considered as stolen and giving it back would cost him his freedom.
Theo started out as a boy in this novel. But the story had a very unusual structure. It began at some point right in the thick of the conflict of the story. And since the book clocks in at 800 pages or so, it would be a long journey to try and piece his sordid tale. Readers would either get hooked right away but grow bored along the way, or endure Theo’s many stupid decisions and plow through it. Be prepared for scenes of gratuitous drug use, or shake your head at his father’s negligent parenting skills. Perhaps you’ll even lose interest with all the times he grew agog over glimpses of a girl for whom he’d love from afar. Theo’s circle of people was not the most ideal, to be sure. His father was a recovering alcoholic and who’d soon found another vice in prescription drugs and gambling. His friend who would lead him astray many a time, but was yet far more dependable than any other person that had walked through his life. There was the restorer who would become the father that he deserves, but with whom he would ultimately betray.
It is always such an arduous task to review a book this big. I’m also not a very astute reviewer even on my good days, so to even attempt to write one for a Pulitzer Prize winner is a joke in itself. The Goldfinch is obviously way out of my league. I wanted to love it to the depths of my soul. The good thing about this book is its readable quality that could appeal to people who likes being immersed in novels for weeks at a time. I’m not one of those people, obviously. While I can appreciate the industrious and meticulous plotting, it ran too long for my taste. And like I mentioned previously, I was severely out of my depth.