The Goldfinch

By Donna Tartt,

Book cover of The Goldfinch

Book description

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014 Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

10 authors picked The Goldfinch as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I admire the storyline and the defining incident of this novel, which is why I’ve included it here, even though it’s an overly long and baggy book...

The novel tells the tale of a teenager whose world is torn apart when he and his mother visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where a terrorist bomb goes off, killing his mother and many others. When a dying old man persuades our young hero to take off with a priceless seventeenth-century painting, The Goldfinch, he obliges and off we go...

Carel Fabritius’s seventeenth-century Dutch painting The Goldfinch gives the novel its title and plot.

Starting with a powerful scene of an art gallery bombing which kills thirteen-year-old Theo Decker’s mother and he steals the painting, the novel depicts Theo’s journey through the US criminal underworld. With amazing characters and thrilling suspense, The Goldfinch is a novel about loss, love, and obsession.

I too am obsessed by a Dutch painting, in my case Vermeer’s View of Delft. My mother, who also died when I was thirteen like Theo, had a cheap print of the painting which now hangs in my dining…

From Maggie's list on why art matters (in our lives).

It’s not that I can’t go to the West Coast of America, just not yet. But I feel that I have been, transported by Tartt’s evocative prose.

Although I wasn’t convinced by the voice of the narrator as a thirteen-year-old boy, I didn’t need to be, because my reader relationship was not with a fictional teenager but with the writer, and that’s the voice that carried me on the narrative journey. 

I connect with the loss of a parent, aloneness, a journey into the art world, a life of moving from place to place and not belonging, and the…

From Nicola's list on taking you where you can’t go.

This book is an astounding work of art. Even though it’s not a mystery novel per se, it has a mystery at its heart so I feel like I can cheat it onto my list. Donna Tartt uses a lot of the elements pioneered by Chandler and Hammett–the criminal underworld, the unreliable friend, the lone figure in a confusing landscape trying to figure it all out and never sure he isn’t being run like a rat in a maze by powers beyond his understanding. At the same time, it’s a coming-of-age story with a quest in the middle of the…

From Bradley's list on mystery where the quest goes sideways.

Even the tiniest things mean something. As a nearsighted child, I tended to examine my surroundings up close, filling nooks and crannies with stories. Reading The Goldfinch was a bit like experiencing a story from my own nearsighted point of view. At the story’s heart, we find the painting of the same name, by Carel Fabritius. The tiny chain around the leg of the bird isn’t noticed at first, but once seen changes everything for the viewer. Tartt tells a large tale while concentrating on the smallest elements. In an instant of time, the life of the small boy in…

The Goldfinch was hard to put down. I read late into many nights.  It’s difficult to write a short review of so vast a book, and I’m still not sure why I felt so connected to Theo. I’m a Manhattan native, and many of the locations in this book are endearingly familiar, adding authenticity. And, I’m an artist. But those aren’t really the points.

Tartt’s oddball characters are credible, reminding me of people I’ve known, and she doesn’t manipulate the reader into judging them. Her labyrinthine plot develops in exciting ways, some inevitable, some unpredictable, some discomforting. Always, the hidden…

I love this book. The writing is rich and the story haunting. I wanted to learn more about Theo Decker a boy who survives an accident that killed his mother. Imagine losing your mother at the age of 13 and having to figure out how to survive in New York. I lived in New York City as a single mom and had to start over with my young son. This book reminds me of how hard life can be but also instilled in me the joy and optimism of knowing we are more powerful than we think. I’ve always respected…

I feel that this author is an absolutely brilliant writer. This book took her 10 years to complete and nothing was missed. The first scene in the book left me mesmerized. I felt like I lived through the tragic terrorist attack that the young protagonist survives and his mother does not. It then becomes an epic 700-page saga meticulously narrated as he journeys through people and places in his quest to survive. Throughout it all he holds onto a painting that keeps him connected to his mother but draws him into the interesting but scary world of the underground. I…

The Goldfinch is among my favorite novels that set the standard for character-driven historical fiction. The beautifully crafted narration plunges the reader into the labyrinth of high society and the art world through the life of a motherless young boy caught up in a mysterious web of crime by his possession of a missing painting. 

From Robert's list on grand literary historical fiction.

I’ve never forgotten Theo Decker, the thoroughly engaging protagonist and narrator of Tartt’s third novel. Although I relished Tartt’s earlier work, I became wondrously lost in The Goldfinch. She won the Pulitzer for this book, deservedly so, which centers around Theo’s theft of a painting, The Goldfinch of the title, and the percolating adventures that follow Theo, his associates, and the painting itself. Tartt is superb at juggling both plotlines and timelines—and entertaining to the end. It’s one of the most engaging novels I’ve ever read. I will read it again.  

Want books like The Goldfinch?

Our community of 10,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like The Goldfinch.

Browse books like The Goldfinch

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in New York State, loss, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about New York State, loss, and presidential biography.

New York State Explore 693 books about New York State
Loss Explore 104 books about loss
Presidential Biography Explore 17 books about presidential biography