I have always loved Donna Tartt's writing—one of my favorite books is The Secret History—but I was unsure this book would live up to my expectations. Although not quite as good as her two most popular novels, The Goldfinch still contains her unique style and voice. The novel follows a young boy, Theo, who grows up in New York with his mom. After a disaster happens while visiting a museum, his life changes dramatically. Tartt writes New York in such a way that while reading it I was able to feel the bustle of traffic and smell the smoke and sewers. Sounds and atmospheres of taxis, apartment building doorways, park benches, museums, and lunch counters all swirl together into a world that is as carefully produced as an artist's painting. Then, the reader is abruptly transplanted to the parched and desolate Las Vegas suburbs. I became absorbed by these starkly different settings and the whirling thoughts we follow in Theo’s head.

This book demands a lot from the reader: their attention, emotion, and sacrifice of time (the novel is almost 800 pages long!). At times I found the narrative lagging into confusing plot points that did not add much to the central journey of the main character. With long chunks of the book covering days of Theo lying semi-aware of his surroundings in Amsterdam or the long period of the book that he spent in Vegas with intense descriptions of the desert’s isolation, there are times that scenes stretch for a little too long. I found Theo’s relationship with Boris to be the most interesting plot point. Although they came from drastically different backgrounds—Boris from the Ukraine originally—they both went through dark parts of life which made them form such a strong and important friendship. The novel has a central theme or object—the painting of the Goldfinch—which haunts Theo as a representation of the past. Tartt puts art on a divine level, and plays with ideas of its immortality and ability to change lives.

Theo. Hobie. Welty. Pippa. Mrs. Barbour. Boris. Tartt brings to life unforgettable characters brought together by coincidence in a book that transgresses genres: thriller, philosophical treaty, coming of age tale, epic, and memoir. Beneath those it is most essentially a romance, exhibiting a love of art. To quote Nietzche: "We have art in order not to die from the truth." Although the book could use more strike-throughs of an editor's pen, it absorbs the reader in the plot through Donna Tartt’s smooth, dark, and unequally aestheticized voice.