Every so often you come across a book that’s a game changer: one whose characters are wholly relatable, a plot that sucks you in, the inability to put it down, the sadness you feel when you’ve, alas, read the very last page. Do you know the kind of book I’m talking about?
On my honeymoon, I had by chance downloaded just such a book to my iPhone, and between tours and dinners had my head buried in the thing…all 771 pages of it. (Husband: Are you Instagramming AGAIN? Me: No, no, promise! Just reading my book!) The book was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
Now, this is hardly a lit-blog by any means, but since the fictional tale took place largely in NYC, I had a brilliant idea: why not host a monthly book club right here on UYC, featuring a book loosely based in or about NYC…and then after reading it, go to one of the spots featured in the story?! Not gonna lie, this idea REALLY excites me, and I hope some of you will join in on the fun, too!
Here’s a blurb about the book taken from Amazon:
“Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity.
It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.”
This is the painting that the book is named after (currently on exhibit at the Frick, for any of you interested!)
One place in the city that really connected me to this novel is a particular Central Park bench the protagonist mentions in the novel as being his mother and his favorite bench. I recognized this immediately because it also happens to be the exact bench Gillman and I sit on during our daily walks! Located by the pond, it’s the bench with the plaque that reads “Entirely Of Possibility.” I’ve always loved that bench the most. Have any of you seen it?
I’d like to leave you with a bit of text from the novel:
“…if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of at. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.
…four hundred years before us, four hundred years after we’re gone, it’ll never strike anybody the same way and the great majority of people it’ll never strike in any deep way at all but–a really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart through all kinds of different angles, in ways that are unique and very particular. Yours, yours. I was painted for you.”
I hope you enjoyed the first installment of UYC’s book club! Have you read the story? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
For next month, we’ll be reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, so download, buy, or check it out from your local library now! You absolutely don’t have to be based out of NYC to participate…in fact, the more variety we have in voices, the better!
After reading, I’ll be visiting a place mentioned in the book (a restaurant, perhaps?!) and posting about it on Monday, February 24th, and would LOVE to have you guys join in on the discussion! Between now and then, please join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag:
Who’s in?! Let us know in the comment section below!
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen