blaise's book feast

Un amuse bouche de la litterature

Tag: fiction

The Goldfinch

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

I have to admit that it took me a while to get into this book, despite its Pulitzer Prize and multiple accolades.  I’m not sure why I couldn’t sink my teeth into it from the first chapter, but somewhere around the middle of the book I couldn’t put it down until the last page passed beneath my fingertips.  And then I immediately got it on audiobook from the library and listened to the whole thing.

The book begins with a young boy named Theo and his art loving mother who go to the Met to see an exhibition of Dutch masterpieces, including Carl Fabritius’s “The Goldfinch.” A tragedy strikes at the museum, leaving his mother dead, and Theo concussed and terrified in the rubble.  He then sees a dying art patron look at him and point to The Goldfinch.  Theo panics and takes the painting, a decision which unbeknownst to his 13-year-old self, will inform the rest of his life.

An orphaned Theo manages to make his way into the art and antiques world, a world punctuated by the elite, by childhood renegades, drug addiction, and unsavory business dealings.  Theo tries to make an honest living selling antiques, frequently ruminating on his stolen painting, only to find out that his childhood best friend stole it years ago and that it has been traveling the black market ever since. In a catastrophic and thrilling plot to retrieve the painting, Theo winds up bereft and suicidal in Amsterdam, with the painting presumably lost forever.  In an elegant twist in the last pages, Theo finds redemption, renewal and a path to righting his wrongs.

Exceptionally well written, I highly recommend it.

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The Rathbones

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The Rathbones by Janice Clark

I finished this book a week ago and I’m still reeling from this salty, violent, beautiful, sea siren song.

Mercy is the 15 year old scion of the once revered Rathbone family, and she lives in a ramshackle ghost of a house that once was home to the most powerful whaling family in the North Atlantic. With a cold, unyielding mother, and no sign of a father, she and Mordecai (her uncle who turns out to be her brother), set off on a sea journey to find some answers about their previously powerful family.

Unanticipated answers are found, family lineages are disentangled, and along the way they find figments of the last sperm whales, a colony of their Aunts who live on an island and spin wool, and Circe, a woman who has been living in a sea cave so long that she seems to be of the sea itself.

The pages seem like they’ve been soaked in a salty sea brine, that your hand might become ensnared in a piece of cold seaweed as you turn the pages.

An unexpected Homeric tale of the 1840s in the North Atlantic, with Mercy as a valiant little heroine.

Beautiful Ruins

 201207-omag-books-ruins-284xfallBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This is a jewel of a book that casts an emerald net between 1960s Italy and current day Hollywood.  Among the cast are Hollywood legends who refuse to fall completely into oblivion, a poor but hardworking Italian boy, a gorgeous young American actress with an invasive illness, an alcoholic author, a nearly obscure producer who gets thrust into the limelight again, and fresh screen starlets with breasts and no brains.  An ages-old love story of incendiary attraction, deep love, and loss is what brings these motley characters together through the tides of time and space.

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