I first heard of this book in the spring of 2014 when a writing mentor of mine, who serves as a book reviewer for the New York Times, lauded it as one of Donna Tartt’s greatest works. The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014, took 11 years to write.
As I read, my attention was effortlessly pulled into the downward-spiraling life of its narrator, Theo Decker. Tartt was able to give his voice as much authenticity as if she had been reading his journal pages, presenting his narrative in a harrowing quality reminiscent of Karl Ove's autobiographical series.
And though the story is carried by Theo Decker's own vivid recollections, Tartt did not skimp on developing the moods and personalities of the other characters. She presented each supporting role with layers and complexity, causing me to consider that an entirely separate novel’s worth of drama could be tapped from their individual stories.
Apart from being immensely entertained, I also felt like I was being provided an education in art history, antique restoration, drugs, gambling, and criminal underworlds.
If you want to be completely immersed in someone else’s story for more than 700 descriptively heart-wrenching pages, then this book will grab you by the shirt and take you for a ride around the world, elevating you to adrenaline-pumping highs before dropping you onto despair's most desolate floors.
I’ll admit that choosing such a lengthy and captivating book to be read in one week was a bit daunting (it felt like I was living a parallel life), but with the book’s unanswered questions promising to be addressed just pages away, I did not want to put it down.
"Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted -- ? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reason, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight towards a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster? ... If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement, the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or...is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?"
- Probity: the quality of having strong moral principles; honesty and decency.
- Brocades: a rich fabric, usually silk, woven with a raised pattern, typically with gold or silver thread.
- Tableau Vivant: a silent and motionless group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident.
- Ermine: a stoat, especially when in its white winter coat.
- Harum-scarum: reckless; impetuous.
- Obfuscate: render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.
- Diaphanous: (especially of fabric) light, delicate, and translucent.
- Patois: the jargon or informal speech used by a particular social group.
- Ebullient: cheerful and full of energy.
- Saturnine: (of a person or their manner) slow and gloomy.
- Congenial: (of a person) pleasant because of a personality, qualities, or interests that are similar to one's own.
- Scurrilous: making or spreading scandalous claims about someone with the intention of damaging their reputation.
- Lurid: very vivid in color, especially so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect.