UYC’s Book Club: The Goldfinch

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




  • crystalbox says:

    Your blog is really neat! The review was just enough (but not too much) to get me interested in buying the book! And, now I must see the bench too! Can’t help myself! Great job!

    • Used York City says:

      Thanks so much! We hope to have you join in on the book club here on the blog next month, Crystal!:-)

  • great review. Did you find it hard to read on a cell phone? I would think that would be hard. Too bad you don’t have Kriss Morton as part a tribe member. She has tons of books she reviews.

    Love the twists you are giving to your blog. Congrats on the marriage!
    Stevie Wilson recently posted..SAG Awards! Hot TrendSpotting by Amy Nadine & Kylee Heath!My Profile

    • Used York City says:

      Hi Stevie! Reading on the phone isn’t so bag as long as you make the text larger;-) I do prefer my Kindle, but when I don’t feel like schlepping a lot of stuff around, the phone is a great backup!

      So glad you are liking the new columns on the blog…thought 2014 would be a great time to introduce some new material! Stay tuned for more fun stuff!:-)

  • what a lovely idea! I might try myself!
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  • Jess my big find at the moment is the book called Wool. I have just finished it in pretty much 1 sitting and just downloaded part 2 onto my kindle.
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    • Used York City says:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Bintu! I love a book you can finish in one sitting, will definitely look into it!:-)

  • Such a great idea to start a NYC-themed book club, Jess! It’s so great that you appreciate art and literature as well. I’m in a monthly book club locally in L.A. (which reminds me that I need to purchase and start reading next month’s book), but perhaps I’ll join in the fun with your book club as well. And I love Anthony Bourdain, so now would be a good time to read his classic as well!
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    • Used York City says:

      That’s awesome, Dana! Yes, we’d love to have you join in…I’ve started already and it’s a super fun, fast read…very entertaining, to say the least!

  • Mette says:

    There is nothing better than using a novel as guide to a city. And in New York there are 1000s to choose from.
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    • Used York City says:

      There surely are! And agree: whenever I travel I love finding novels from that region of the world to immerse myself in:-)

  • Mike says:

    You read a book on your honeymoon? 🙂 This is a fantastic idea on the Book club, Jess, and your review of the Goldfinch was very enticing. But, you have me squirming in my seat with excitement about Kitchen Confidential! Have I read it? No. I’m an enormous fan of Bourdain’s travel shows the past few years and from a ton of reading everything but the actual copy and I feel I have a solid grasp of it. Can’t wait! 🙂
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    • Used York City says:

      Awesome! I’ve dived into it already and not gonna lie, LOVE it! Already learned that the best night to eat out is a Tuesday, and you should never, ever, ever order a fish dish on a Sunday or Monday;-) Thanks Bourdain!

  • This is so cool! One of my 2014 goals was to read more off-line. Of course, one of the books I picked up was IQ 84 by Haruki Murakami and I’ve yet to open it. Who knows? Maybe it takes place in NYC?

    Thank you for the suggestion of The Goldfinch — something tells me I’ve read something of hers before…

    Great idea, Jess, and this will definitely help me become literate once again 🙂
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    • Used York City says:

      Yay so glad you like it!:-) And I’ll definitely look into IQ84, thank YOU for the suggestion!

      Reading via Kindle on my phone is one of the best discoveries ever…rather than aimlessly check Facebook or email while standing in line, taking the train, or waiting for a meeting, I can now make the text REALLY big and do meaningful reading wherever I am!

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