The Goldfinch – book club discussion questions

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is available as one of the Gold Coast Libraries’ book club kits.

**Please be aware that book discussion questions may contain spoilers.**

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the third book by Donna Tartt. Twelve years in the writing, the  771 pages require commitment and dedication on the reader’s part.

Synopsis: When the novel begins, narrator Theo Decker is 13, and living in New York with his mother. His father has, effectively, left them. Theo and his mother are both hurt, and relieved, by his abandonment. A chance encounter in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, followed by a catastrophe, changes Theo’s life forever.  Traumatised and alone, Theo walks away from the devastation carrying  a small, priceless, work of art – The Goldfinch by the Dutch Master Carel Fabritius.

Theo lives for a time with a school friend’s family, and then in Las Vegas with his father. As the years pass, Theo seems unable to assert himself, and drifts into a career in antiques – his life becomes a succession of frauds, pain medication, dangerous friendships, obsession and crime. And the tiny painting, which Theo clings to as a talisman of his lost mother, is the cause of much of his trouble.

Discussion Questions

    1. This is a long novel – do you feel it needed to be this length to adequately tell Theo’s story. Did it enhance or detract from the tale being told and why?
    2. Did you find Tartt’s description of Theo’s grief, of the sense of “moving away” from the person who has died, and of the inadequacy of words, moving? How realistic did you find the responses of others to Theo’s situation?
    3. There are many, varied characters in this novel – are they believable and relevant?
    4. What do you think of Andy and his family?
    5. Some reviewers have commented that Boris is one of the most inventive characters. Why is this and why does Theo appear so influenced by him?
    6. What is the relevance of the goldfinch? How does Theo’s longing for his mother echo the bird’s chains?
    7. Tartt has been compared both to Dickens and J.K. Rowling for her storytelling skills and prose in this novel. Are these fair comparisons? In what way?
    8. We are obviously meant to judge Theo’s father in this novel. Is this fair? Theo fears he will become like his father – particularly in his dealings with Hobie – does this come to fruition?
    9. What do you think the future will hold for Theo? Donna Tartt has left the ending open – why?

Helpful links:

More discussion questions on Reading Group Guides and LitLovers

A summary of critical reaction from Vanity Fair and The Guardian


**Thanks to Kate and Liz for putting together the content for this post.