I am not a re-reader of books; in fact, that I even keep them at all after I've finished is a bit of a mystery to me.
So for me to tear through Donna Tartt's latest novel, "The Goldfinch," in print once, and now a second time — plus listening to it on audio — gives you some idea of how infatuated I have become with it.
I'd read Tartt's earlier works, including "The Secret History," and enjoyed them, but I was not so enamored as to repeat them.
But there's something about "The Goldfinch," and its story of Theodore Decker and a small painting of a goldfinch by 17th-century Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, that has thoroughly enthralled me.
The novel is huge, 784 pages in print, 32 and a half hours to listen, and takes Theo on an incredible roller-coaster ride from early adolescence to his late 20s.
On a damp April day in New York, Theo and his mother kill some time before an appointment by taking a quick tour through an exhibit of Dutch masterpieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A terrorist bomb explodes inside the museum, killing Theo's mother. Theo, frantic and disoriented, flees the museum in possession of two items: a signet ring given to him by an old man dying in the wreckage, and the Fabritius painting.
From there, Theo goes to live on the Upper East Side with the family of a friend and takes the signet ring to the old man's business partner and friend, who turns out to be the remarkable Hobie, a restorer of antique furniture in Greenwich Village. As Theo struggles through the post-traumatic haze of the explosion and his mother's death, his ne'er-do-well father, who has abandoned his family for the life of a gambler in Las Vegas, turns up with his girlfriend, Xandra, to reclaim Theo.
In Nevada, Theo falls into a drug- and alcohol-fueled friendship with Boris, a Polish-Australian-Russian kid, as the two roam the deserted suburbs in the company of Popper, Xandra's neglected Maltese. The painting, hidden in Theo's room, becomes a touchstone to the world of art and creativity Theo longs for.
To tell you more about the plot would spoil the fun of immersing yourself in Theo's crazy world. Suffice to say Tartt leads readers on an incredible journey through the worlds of art and antiques, gamblers and grifters, well-intentioned adults and adolescent friendships, creating a deep sense of place in Theo's worlds of New York City and Las Vegas.
The book is overlong, and I found it hard to shake the "crazies" from spending a lot of time in Theo's drug use episodes. But these are nitpicky details.
David Pittu's narration is nearly perfect; every character cleanly differentiated. The only "accent" I had problems with was that of Boris; Theo describes his accent as Australian by way of Russia, but what Pittu delivers is mostly Eastern European; I didn't hear much Aussie in there.
This is a book to own in whatever format you can find it. It'll make you think about all kinds of things, including the role art plays in our lives.
AUDIO BOOK REVIEW
THE GOLDFINCH. By Donna Tartt. Hachette Audio, $31.50. Unabridged, 32 hours, 30 minutes. Downloaded from audible.com. Narrated by David Pittu.