"You cannot buy the friendship of a companion bound to you forever by ordeals endured together.”
I'm seriously tempted to write a blog post that just says
'Flippin' good book...don't miss it...'
That would be the easy way out given it is almost two weeks since I finished reading The Goldfinch having started it on December 1st. Almost a month of my life will have been committed, in the truest sense of the word, to reading and then thinking about a book that swept me up and carried me along on that tide of reading pleasure...and didn't I go on about it.
The book had arrived along with several others that were giving the shelf a very taupe-like feel..
Now there can be all manner of reasons why I might not pick up a book and read it, and I'd hate to own up that it was because the cover looked a bit...well bland. But I was hanging on to that glorious summer of warmth and colour, and dazzle was winning the day, no question...
I'm not going to linger over plot details or summaries, if you have read The Goldfinch you will know, if you haven't it's all there for you to be surprised with, part of the pleasure of the book for me was reading no reviews and knowing nothing about it. I just waded in on Harriet's recommend, was grabbed by the reading scruff and had no wish to leave. My nose was in my Kindle everywhere we went.
That opening quote is not from the book, nor is it written by Donna Tartt. At one point in the book, Theo, who at the age of thirteen has lost his mother and 'found' a painting, is on a long bus journey across America and reads Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine du St Exupery. It's a book I have on the shelf but haven't read, yet a cursory browse suggests it is a book I will, and Theo still real enough in my mind, even now two weeks on, for me to feel I want to cry at the thought of him reading this on his lonely journey back to New York, and with a dog hidden in his bag (it's a long story)...
“A sheet spread beneath an apple-tree can receive only apples; a sheet spread beneath the stars can receive only star-dust.”
The stars, along with Theo's love for his mother, and the painting and the guardianship of Hobie are among the constants in Theo's life and heavens did I wish him some star-dust.
I was some way into The Goldfinch when I twigged Donna Tartt's strategy.
I was in a state of perpetual anxiety for Theo, anxious when he fell in with bad company, or skipped school, or took huge risks. When the touchstones of his life disappeared I could have wept for him, when life was becoming a little 'samey' I was bored alongside him and wanted to move on, (the escape from Vegas might actually have been my idea, I can't remember... 'Let's cut and run Theo...yes bring the dog.') When the action ratchets up a notch or three towards the end I was frankly completely duped and confused, but then so was Theo.
This all to the point when I realised I had become his mother reincarnate (I might almost have bought him a Christmas present it was that bad) and was doing enough worrying for twenty mothers. The 'bad company' I mention aka Boris...well the rest of that St Exupery quote is well-placed here...
"If I search among my memories for those whose taste is lasting, if I write the balance sheet of the moments that truly counted, I surely find those that no fortune could have bought me. You cannot buy the friendship of a companion bound to you forever by ordeals endured together.”
The painting of the goldfinch itself, whilst also a constant in the book, became a constant for me too. I kept a printed copy tucked in my Kindle, my electronic bookmark. I still need a visual somethingorother whenever I read so I still choose a bookmark even for an e-read. The significance of Carel Fabritius's 1664 painting won't be lost on anyone who reads the book, the wild bird chained and trapped, it's glinting beady eye catching this beholder's gaze with a mix of sorrow and recrimination. Check out Carel Fabritius's demise as well...I won't spoil it but it seems highly significant given events in the book.
With sincere apologies to everyone I met for the duration and urged to read it, and to those I wittered on to about it only being £1.99 on Kindle, because now I have to hold my breath and wait for everyone to come back and say it was rubbish...and then feel my 'baby' is being unloved. Book enthusing on such a gargantuan scale is a high risk strategy, but I can't wait to hear your verdict if you did read The Goldfinch.
And please don't fear for your life if you mention in comments that you loathed/hated it and what on earth was I thinking etc, I have enough love for The Goldfinch for it to survive any onslaught.