*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Goldfinch, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Goldfinch has been on my reading list for quite a while. Generally, I like to read or at least be informed about Pulitzer Prize winners and usually they are good picks for book club discussions. Although, I will say the last few I’ve read have been hard to read and I’ve taken a step back from the list in recent years. However, when I saw that The Goldfinch was made into a major motion picture, I decided it was time to read it.
Here’s the deal about Hollywood that doesn’t always apply to acclaimed literary fiction–they (usually) produce movies with a good plot. Literary fiction doesn’t have to have much of a plot to still win awards. The writing and character development are more important.
So, I figured that The Goldfinch would be a good merger of quality writing, character development, and plot.
Since I’ve finished reading, I can say that I really enjoyed this book. There was a point in the middle where I wondered if I would push through. There is an excessive amount of drug use in the book. So, if that’s not your thing, you might struggle with the novel.
About 40% through, I also thought that there was no way the book would end on any kind of positive note and I was so frustrated, I almost stopped reading. HOWEVER, I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it doesn’t end as negatively as many Pulitzer Prize winners of late (what happened to the days of To Kill a Mockingbird??). In fact, you might think it ends positively, depending on your personal experience.
That said, I think this is a great read for any book club that can manage the length (800 pages). I do agree with lots of reviewers who said the book could have been significantly shorter and still had the same effect. In any event, there is PLENTY to discuss about The Goldfinch. On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for The Goldfinch below for your meeting, so if you’re looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Goldfinch:
When tragedy at a museum steals Theodore Decker’s mother from him, he clings to her memory in the form of a small and beautiful depiction of a goldfinch locked in place and time within an invaluable painting. The events leading to Theo’s theft of the painting are shrouded with the confusing darkness of the explosion, but the real question is not how Theo came to have the painting but what he will do with it. Over more than a decade, the painting follows Theo as he moves through the world searching for his place, finding no respite with family, seeking belonging in the dark corners of the world, until the circle he’s chosen begins to close in on him…and the painting.
For The Goldfinch recipe:
There is so much food in this book. So, naturally, I chose none of it and went for a cocktail instead.
I actually entertained several different dishes of Hobie’s, the Christmas Stollen (bread) Theo orders just after deciding to turn himself in, and even the appetizers that Xandra brings home for Theo and Boris. However, nothing seemed like the right fit.
I toyed with creating the Christmas Stollen longest because it represented the redemptive part of the novel and it is Dutch just like The Goldfinch. I found a few recipes for inspiration (here and here) before tossing the idea. Mainly because we all have busy lives. Creating not only homemade bread but marzipan and candied fruit for the recipe…well, it just seemed like too much for someone who’s already hosting a book club.
I went back to the drawing board, did some research, and landed on a cocktail inspired by a drink called (none other than) The Goldfinch at Seaworthy in New Orleans. Here’s the original recipe. So, if you’ve been searching for food ideas for your book club after reading The Goldfinch, I think you’ll enjoy this recipe.
For mine, I went a little sweeter. I used Prosecco rather than Cocchi Americano, since it’s a common find, and upped the simple syrup. In the end, it tasted similar to a margarita without the tequila. If you absolutely love Chiltons, see the notes for a more sour version. If you’ve never heard of a Chilton…here you go.
The recipe turned out to be a perfect collection representing all of the people Theo loved most. A little Sherry for Hobie. A serving of white wine apertif for The Barbours. Sweet and sour lemon juice for Boris. And two dashes of orange liquor for Pippa. All mixed together with a bubbly club soda for his mother.
I also rimmed the glasses with edible gold gel, which you can find at any store with a large baking section. I found mine at Hobby Lobby and the sweet accent was a nice touch.
The Goldfinch Cocktail
- High Ball Glasses, Shaker
- 2 parts Prosecco
- 1 part Sherry Fino
- ¾ part lemon juice
- 1 part simple syrup
- 2 dashes orange liquor
- 3 parts club soda
- 1 Lemon for garnish
- Mix all ingredients together, except club soda. If available, use a shaker, then strain into a glass over ice.
- Top with club soda.
- Garnish with a lemon.
The Goldfinch Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- Why do you think that Theo steals The Goldfinch? Several times he blames it on Welty’s vague instructions, but do you think this is really why he does it? Do you think it was only an action done in the delirium after catastrophe or was it something more? How does the fact that he continues to hide the painting afterwards affect your answer of motive?
- Do you think it would have been better for Theo if he had stayed with the Barbours instead of going to Las Vegas with his father (if he had the choice)? Talk about the ways the Barbours would have been better caretakers of Theo and ways they would have failed him versus the ways his father failed him. After Theo returns to NYC and reunites with the Barbours, why do you think he is drawn to Mrs. Barbour, who is described by him as a cold woman, and Kitsey, who Boris refers to as the Ice Queen?
- Do you believe, as Boris says, that Theo’s father really loved him and that he wanted to share his life with Theo? Do you think that someone can really love you and still betray you multiple times (i.e. his father left Theo and his mother without a trace, the embezzlement attempts, leaving Theo to care for himself, trying to steal his inheritance, etc.)?
- Do you think that Boris is ultimately a helper or a harmer to Theo? The Barbours? Theo’s father and Xandra? Hobie and Pippa?
- At the end of the book, Theo struggles with taking the money from the painting. This is attributed to his character and how he views the world, which is presented as more black and white/good and bad than Boris views the world. In effect, it leads the reader to see him as redeemable. However, Theo does many things throughout the book that have twisted morality (stealing from Xandra, selling Hobie’s pieces as genuine, etc.). Did you really believe Theo saw the world so black and white as to balk at taking the money from The Goldfinch? Why or why not?
- To continue, what ways do you think that Theo might have attached his innocence to The Goldfinch? How did this lead to purer intentions about the painting than any other aspect of his life?
- Do you think this before tragedy/after tragedy self-image is also, as Pippa states, why they connected to each other? Was Pippa really his true love or only the embodiment of his innocence?
- Do you agree with Theo’s nihilistic view of life or do you side with Boris’ optimism? In what ways do you think The Goldfinch painting represents the middle ground between the two?
- In the end, Theo uses the money to repurchase Hobie’s creations. However, they discuss how even reproductions, artist copies, and collaborative works (like Hobie’s pieced together creations), can sprout a love of art or an appreciation of styles in the collector’s heart. Do you think authenticity is the most important factor to art? Do you think that the way The Goldfinch affected Welty’s life differed from the way it affected Theo’s because Welty fell in love first with a reproduction? Talk about this line of distinction and whether it’s important. Talk about works of art that have influenced your life and whether you considered their authenticity before now.
- Discuss your favorite part of the book. Discuss your least favorite part of the book. Do you think this novel had a happy ending? Why or why not?
Have you read The Goldfinch? What did you think–love it or hate it? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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