Book Club: The Goldfinch Check-In #4 (The End!)

I know everyone else already finished it and I’m totally the loser here, but I finally finished The Goldfinch and am ready to talk about it! Thanks everyone for waiting for Lady Slowpoke over here. Next month the holidays will be over so I will have my act together.

First of all, this post/discussion obviously has SPOILERS so if you haven’t read The Goldfinch but you want to, go away now! I mean that in the kindest way!

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tart

Alright, my goodness. Where do we begin? Final questions are as follows (vague so we can use the same format for future books):

Did you expect the book to end as it did?

What did you hope would have happened differently?

What do you feel are the overarching themes of the book?

What do you think was the author’s “message”, if there was one at all?

Would you recommend this book to others?

Anything else?

I’ll go:

Did you expect the book to end as it did?
Did I expect Theo to get away with murder (although I do agree with Boris that it was self-defense) and for the theft of the painting to be resolved and concluded so beautifully with no legal consequences for Boris or Theo? No, I didn’t expect it. But I’m not gonna lie: I loved it. I am guessing other people saw it as a cop-out and entirely unrealistic, but I am just a sucker for a story where all the loose ends are tied up perfectly in a sweet little package. (Ideally in my world he would also have finally gotten together with Pippa, but alas!) I love the Disney ending. I honestly thought that Boris was going to die, and was so afraid that it would happen, that the actual ending pleased me immensely. Never has an alcoholic criminal Russian addict been so lovable!

What did you hope would have happened differently?
Like I said… I wanted Theo and Pippa to get together. But, kudos to Pippa for recognizing that they were strangers brought together by a horrible circumstance, and that it wouldn’t have been healthy for them to be a couple.

What do you feel are the overarching themes of the book?
I’m interested in the ideas about antiques and famous paintings, and how as humans we place incredible significance in certain objects, such that they take on a life of their own and can be both healing and destructive. Obviously the goldfinch painting itself was much more than just a beautiful piece of art to Theo- it represented the single greatest defining event of his life, it evoked his mother, it was steeped in mystery, and it was also representative of the strange connection that Theo felt with Welty in those dying moments in the museum. In many ways it became a part of Theo, and it’s understandable (though of course not commendable) that he couldn’t just let it go. It reminds me of the Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and how as the subject of the painting became more and more evil and his lifestyle became that of more and more debauchery, the painting reflected his soul even as he ceased to age. While the painting of the goldfinch wasn’t of Theo himself, there was something of him in it- an innocence that was arrested at a young age by the catastrophic loss of his mother and unable to ever really be free again, like the little chained bird.

Would you recommend this book to others?
I would! It’s a great read and Donna Tartt is masterful at setting the scene and writing profoundly memorable characters that are a little bit larger than life but still believable.

Anything else? My gosh, a long book.

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8 thoughts on “Book Club: The Goldfinch Check-In #4 (The End!)

  1. Did you expect the book to end as it did?
    Not at all. I really expected a tragic. I was thrilled and giddy that it all got tied up so neatly. Yes, Theo killed someone, which made me sad, since he already had dark things to deal with and didn’t need one more. BUT, it was a really bad guy, and it was self defense. I think it needed to be a tiny bit messy in order to clean up that big mess and I was really happy to see things come together for him in the end.

    What did you hope would have happened differently?
    I, too had hoped for he and Pippa to finally find each other. But I thought it was great that she recognized that they were both too damaged to be good for each other. And I loved how he talked about how she was a shadow presence in his life. To me, that’s just how she was in the book, barely there on the edges, and at times it was frustrating, but it all came around and made perfect sense to me in the end.

    What do you feel are the overarching themes of the book?
    I loved the part where he talked about the “significance” of artworks being unimportant. Instead, what was really important is how a piece of art speaks to each person. I’ve always thought about art that way. You learn about “important” pieces in art history or museums and some have no appeal or meaning to you at all and some just jump out at you and give you goose bumps, like it’s whispering in your ear, private messages just for you. I completely understood the connection one person can have with a painting and how it can hold the answers to everything. I think the overall theme of the book was how he was connected to the painting, not only because it reminded him of his mother – it represented his last moments with her and was something she loved, but also represented the tragedy of losing her- but also that he saw himself in the painting, in some ways became that trapped and frustrated bird trying to figure a way out of it’s shackles.

    I also felt like there was a recurring theme of Theo being trapped/being rescued (or rescuing himself). He’s trapped in debris in the explosion and finds his way out. He worries about being trapped in the foster care system, but is rescued by the Barbours and Hobie. He is trapped in a horrible life with his dad and once again escapes and finds refuge with Hobie. He’s stuck in Amsterdam and is saved by Boris. He traps himself in a web of deceit and underhanded dealings and has to find a way to extricate himself. And he’s trapped by the painting, held in its thrall, and is only free when he releases it. After a period of being very frustrated and angry with Theo I found myself sympathizing with him and rooting for him. And Boris, such a charming criminal. And always, steadfast Hobie, there to lean on and willing to help pick up the pieces and hold it all together.

    Would you recommend this book to others?
    Absolutely. My only criticism was that it was very long, and started very slowly. But it was vivid, it was heartfelt. And the last third really picked up speed. I’m very glad I read this book as a book club book with deadlines, otherwise it would have taken me a lot longer I think. But I really did love it.

    Anything else?
    I think Pippa needs her own book to tell her story. More Pippa!

  2. Did you expect the book to end as it did?
    No, not really. Boris and Theo surviving was good. I’m glad Theo worked to pay back his furniture swindling. He had to grow inside to do that.

    What did you hope would have happened differently?
    I thought Theo would figure out a resolution to getting the Goldfinch back MUCH sooner. I was almost screaming at him, but it shows the level of maturity he had throughout his early life. After all the life experiences he had at an early age, he was still paranoid that he would be jailed for life if he was caught, just like a kid with stalled development would. The author forced me to think like Theo would think, not like me. Also, I had hoped the Barbours would have a little redemption, but it just didn’t happen. Just tragedy all around.

    What do you feel are the overarching themes of the book?
    No matter the trauma, we can still all choose to do right. Also, I REALLY want to go visit my friend’s house on Sutton Place, NYC, learn about furniture and go to some museums.

    What do you think was the author’s “message”, if there was one at all?
    New York is cold in the winter, Vegas is hot.

    Would you recommend this book to others?
    Yes, very much. Character development was amazing. How she can get into the mind of such different people is truly amazing.

    Anything else?
    Great book choice.

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