Novelties: "The Goldfinch," by Donna Tartt

 

When a popular book is first released it can be difficult to get your hands on a copy right away. The request lists for new best-sellers start growing early on, and can lead to weeks of waiting even when your local library has multiple copies to lend. Why not spend those weeks with yet another good book? If you know where to look, you can even find something that will whet your appetite for when that best-seller finds its way to you.

“Novelties” will provide reader’s advisory for those of you who are interested in new and popular fiction and non-fiction. The recommendations found here were obtained by using NoveList Plus, an online reader’s advisory resource that you can access through the Ventura County Library. If you have questions about using NoveList Plus or any of the other resources in our eLibrary, feel free to stop by and ask us about them!

This month we will look at The Goldfinch, the most recent work by Donna Tartt. Currently on top of the New York Times Best Seller List, the novel follows Theo Decker in the aftermath of a tragedy that robs him of his mother and leaves him in possession of a painting that he clings to as a reminder of her. From here Theo is thrust into a bleak reality where he is forced to grow up too quickly and take care of himself when no one else will. The book is about Theo’s struggle for survival, for physical and psychological well-being in a dreary, corrupt world, and about the uplifting and transformative power of art. Though it weighs in at over 700 pages, The Goldfinch is compellingly written; many readers have said they weren’t able to put it down!

Among NoveList’s read-alikes for The Goldfinch is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. Like Tartt’s novel, this is a coming-of-age story, although in this case the main character is a young woman named Victoria. Like Theo, she has had a difficult childhood, having been abandoned by her parents and raised in a succession of foster homes. But while Theo is forced into the world by a traumatizing loss, Victoria is more a victim of neglect and indifference—she simply ages out of the system having no ties to friends or family. The Language of Flowers is about her gradually building a life for herself while learning to connect with others through shared passions and work toward healthy and lasting relationships.

Another of The Goldfinch’s read-alikes is The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian. The novel follows Laurel Estabrook, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress resulting from an attack that occurred several years prior. Rather than focusing on just her case, however, Bohjalian has his protagonist delve into the life of another damaged soul—a mentally ill, alcoholic homeless man whose passing leaves Laurel with a box of photographs that point to a life that wasn’t always so harsh. By investigating this man and his mysterious connection to her past, Laurel works through her own trauma. Like the two novels above, The Double Bind deals heavily with the psychology of individuals who have been damaged in some way, and the difficulties they must face to find out what it means for them to be whole again.

The GoldfinchThe Language of Flowers, and The Double Bind are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. You can access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request a copy either in-person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

Prepared and presented by Ronald Martin.