So many reviewers have compared Tartt’s 800-page opus to Dickens, and I find this comparison accurate, though perhaps not for the same reason other reviewers have done so. What The Goldfinch shares with Dickens — as well with another equally high-school-canonical novel, namely Dostoyevsky’s — is an obsession with the particular, pervasive anxiety of money. The great nineteenth century novel was a result of the Industrial Revolution. The marriage plots that drove and defined these stories were economic narratives, not love stories. The center of Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy’s world is not the heart but money. As in life, much of what purports to be about love is actually about cash.
The Goldfinch is a grand nineteenth century novel in that it is an 800-page chronicle of capitalism, a paean to the ways in which the world turns on the questions of who can or can’t pay for what, and how these abilities and inabilities mold us over time. Like the life events and relationships it depicts, it purports to be about love but is actually about money. This portrayal of twentieth century North American society is accurate, but also, just as in life, both exhausting and demoralizing. The Goldfinch kept me up all night. but anxiety keeps you up all night, too. It wasn’t the joyful insomnia that I associate with being a lonely child reading all night under covers, galloping through books eager to consume more and yet more of their worlds. Rather this was the insomnia of adulthood, a similar skin-itching wakefulness concerned with wondering how the bills will get paid and if I’ve offended anyone I love.
In the north Willamette Valley the Lesser Goldfinch is a fairly common breeder along the western fringe. Scattered and local in the Portland area it is fairly common from the southern Willamette Valley southward through the Umqua Valley, reaching its greatest abundance in the Rogue Valley.