While it might be more apt to describe Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch as anchored by time, place and character, rather than constricted as the word “tether” implies, I couldn’t resist a reference to the enigmatic painting at the center of this epic tale that recently swept the literary world. Not only did The Goldfinch win the Pulitzer Prize in 2014, it won readers over as well, enough to entice the WU Breakout Novel Book Dissection group to take on the novel as our second read of 2017.
As some may recall from Natalie Hart’s initial post of this series (Dissecting A Man Called Ove) in January, the dissection group takes questions from Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and applies them to works that rise above the crowd of today’s competitive book market, in hopes of gleaning insights on our own writing. And while Donna Tartt, unlike previous authors we have explored, arrived with an established reputation, the tremendous acclaim for this work after the author’s extended absence from publishing, warranted an exception. What we discovered was a book that, while not flawless, excelled at capturing a tumultuous period of recent history, weaving multi-dimensional characters into a tale filled with intrigue, tension and an ever-present nostalgia for what might have been.
“How did the author do it?” is the question repeatedly asked, in a number of ways, of all of our breakthrough reads. In this instance, the answers frequently centered around three key elements:
- Tartt crafted an exquisite opening, drawing the reader close with a blend of palpable foreboding, striking imagery, and heart-wrenching tragedy.
- She explored bold, universal themes while setting the action within a distinct time and place.
- She developed her characters with tremendous heart, continually ratcheting up the tension in their paths to sustain reader interest on a long, arduous – and sometimes circuitous – journey.
Fair warning that *spoilers* may lurk ahead in the following samplings from our group discussions on these attributes of this acclaimed bestseller. [Read more…]