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The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

bookshelves: published-2013, radio-4, fradio, mystery-thriller, autumn-2013, art-forms, recreational-drugs, families, filthy-lucre, contemporary

Read from October 19 to November 09, 2013



BBC Blurb: Donna Tartt shot to fame with her iconic first novel, The Secret History, an instant bestseller. This was followed by The Little Friend in 2002. Now, eleven years later, her eagerly awaited, much anticipated third novel, The Goldfinch, comes to Book at Bedtime, beginning on the eve of world wide publication.

At the heart of the novel lies a masterwork by the Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, a picture of a small chained bird, The Goldfinch. This tiny painting becomes the only certainty for thirteen year old Theo Decker when his secure world with his devoted mother is shattered and life becomes fallible and frightening. From the vagaries of existence with his foolish, reckless father, and a passionate friendship with the chaotic, warm-hearted, wild Boris, to the drawing rooms of the Upper East Side and a dusty downtown antique shop, Theo is left to find his own way through his teenage years and into adulthood. The painting is his talisman, his touchstone, until it draws him into a murky criminal underworld of drugs, art theft and fatal dealings.

Tartt follows Theo through grief, teenage delinquency, passionate friendship and obsessive love, in a story of enthralling suspense, peopled with unforgettable characters. As the drama reaches its gripping conclusion, Theo may or may not find out how to survive. In today's opening episode: 'Tiny yellow bird, faint beneath a veil of dust'. Theo finds a treasure amid the rubble. Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch.

The reader is Jamie Parker. His credits include The History Boys, Valkyrie and Parade's End. The abridger is Sally Marmion The producer is Di Speirs.

1. Tiny Yellow Bird, Faint beneath a Veil of Dust: Theo finds a treasure amid the rubble.

2. Ring the Green Bell: Having survived the museum bombing, Theo must make a new life - and trace the owner of the antique ring.

3. A Morphine Lollipop: Theo finds a new and rare friendship in a dusty old antique shop - and is reunited with the girl with the golden-brown eyes.

4. Under a Desert Sky: The reappearance of his father changes Theo's life again, as he, and the painting, find themselves cast adrift in the harsh light of Las Vegas.

5. What Are You Doing Here? In Las Vegas and under the hapless care of his father, Theo's life becomes increasingly anarchic - only his new friend Boris offers consolation.

6. Revolver, Roadside or Roof: Boris offers Theo a timely warning, when a stranger comes looking for Theo's father.

7. I Won't Forget You: With his father dead, Theo knows he must leave Las Vegas, and Boris, and find his way to New York and the girl with the golden-brown eyes.

8. Museum Masterworks Recovered in the Bronx: The discovery of other lost art fuels Theo's anxiety about 'his' painting.

9. I Know About the Museum: Theo's fraudulent dealings lead him into a murkier art world - and his long-held secret looks suddenly vulnerable to exposure.

10. Friend of My Youth: Boris's unexpected reappearance prompts first joy then anger as he reveals a terrible truth that will shake Theo's world.

11. Negotiable Instrument: Theo finds that both art and love can be bought, sold and used as collateral.

12. Who I Needed to Be With: An evening with Pippa confirms Theo's feelings, but life is complicated, and Boris offers a way out.

13. This Is for You: In a foggy, pre-Christmas Amsterdam, Boris is determined to put The Goldfinch back in Theo's hands, whatever the cost.

14. No-One Knows of This Thing Except Us: Alone in his hotel, with blood on his hands, Theo faces a future without the painting, Boris or freedom.

15. Sometimes You Have to Lose to Win: Loss proves bountiful, as Theo comes to understand what his painting meant and what to take forward into the future.

How Messianic, yeah, yeah!

Best line: You let the dog out.

4.5* The Secret History
4* The Little Friend
CR The Goldfinch