The Goldfinch (audio) is the story of Theo Decker, a young man who loses his mother in a terrorist attack, setting into motion the next decade of his life, taking him from the privileged prep school life he has always known to a teenage Vegas wasteland to the seedy underbelly of the art and antiques world (via the Russian mob, no less). At almost 800 pages, the book is wonderful, and although the length is a little daunting, it really enables the reader to inhabit Theo’s world. It is a mad blend of love and loss, art and craft, crime and society, and if you’re on the waiting list for a library copy, hold tight – I think it’s worth it.
But in the meantime, (or in the aftermath) what can you read? I think most readers would be hard pressed to find a single title that hits on every aspect of the plot and tone of The Goldfinch, but here are a few to try:
David Copperfield or Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Most critics will note that that word “Dickensian” is a bit overused, but in Tartt’s Baroque plotting, rich and varied characters, and epic story will call to mind Dickens himself.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Theo’s friend Boris, a philosophical and damaged boy with a Ukrainian accent that sings off the page, calls to mind Foer’s Alex, another Ukrainian with a love for America and the English language.
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Theo’s underhanded dealings are thrown into contrast by the high society world on the fringes of which he lives; Shipstead’s wedding drama inhabits the same tony world, encapsulated in a three day weekend.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
This historical romance set in feudal Japan echoes Tartt’s epic scope and multiple plotlines combined with stylish writing.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
A fellow Pulitzer Prize winner, the friendship of Theo and Boris finds kinship with Chabon’s heroes, Joseph and Sam.
Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art by Joshua Knelman
Knelman’s true life thriller introduces both sides of one of the largest black markets in the world – a criminal world that Theo inadvertently falls into.
The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegel
This new novel takes Rembrandt’s first major work, the Anatomy Lesson, viewed by Theo and his mother that last morning, and explores the world and the people around it over the course of a day. (still on order for OC Public Libraries 4/21/14, but you can place a hold)