“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 is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.”
When this novel won the Pulitzer Prize it polarised the critics, even those in the Brown household. I couldn’t’ put it down and Josh couldn’t get into it. So take that as you will.
Another fairly long book (this side of 800 pages), it is a swirling Bildungsroman set in 21st century America and Europe. The narrative voice is accessible and the plot intriguing, if at times fantastical. Many critics have lauded the text as ‘Dickensian’ with its detailed descriptions, motherless orphans and concentration on class and status.
I found it incredibly entertaining and Tartt had my full and undivided attention up until the last chapter where the narrative switches gears into a didactic philosophical rant. It’s a story about loss, class, growing up, self-discovery, truth, trust and, of course, love. Divisive as it is, I give it: