The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art is bombed, and thirteen-year-old Theo, separated from his mother, has a strange discussion with a dying old man. Consequently, he leaves the gallery, unobserved, with the painting The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. As it happens, his mother has been killed in the attack and Theo goes to live with a school acquaintance and his family. He follows some instructions from the old man and meets a furniture restorer and the young girl who Theo had seen accompanying in the old man when the attack occurred, and who is recovering from her injuries. Then he gets wrenched away to Las Vegas by his absent father who has finally been tracked down. Theo is all but ignored there, but meets Boris. Then other stuff happens. Oh, and he has this guilt about taking the painting, and a dread that he will be jailed if he tries to return it.
I totally ran out of steam for this book. I generally haven’t had huge issues with reading long books (though my mind is changing – and check out this wonderful blog on big books by Wendy Hanna), but this just lost me. Nearly eight-hundred pages and I struggled with the last couple of hundred. Why? The story was strong and got very interesting, with violence and intrigue. Perhaps it was Theo. I didn’t like him much. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t return the painting, I didn’t feel any empathy for his love for Pippa and the fact that he never really seemed to do anything. He just let the world swirl him around. By about halfway through the novel, I’d even lost any sympathy over the death of his mother and just wanted the book done.