6 Great Books Written During the 1920s

Massive amounts of literature were produced during the Roaring Twenties, from the Harlem Renaissance to the Lost Generation. Many of these works are just as relevant and engaging now as they must have been to readers 100 years ago. This list contains some of my favorite pieces of literature written during the 1920s, but is just a jumping off point for the many brilliant authors who were writing during this time.


To the Lighthouse—Virginia Woolf. I must admit, I am a huge fan of Virginia Woolf. No one can write sentences as beautifully as she can, and no one has mastered the semicolon quite like her, either. To the Lighthouse is the perfect example of her literary genius—it employs the stream of consciousness style and is deeply introspective. The story centers around the Ramsay family and their various relationships. Though the plot is relevant, it functions more as a background in which Woolf explores philosophic questions of death and the human condition. It is a modernist classic that still holds up over a century after it was written.


Cane—Jean Toomer. Another classic modernist work, Cane is a collection of short vignettes that center around the Black experience in America. It is highly experimental and includes short stories and poems that explore sexuality, spirituality, creativity, frustration with the world for what it has—or rather, the lack thereof—to offer, and so many other critical ideas. Cane is an interesting work and a hallmark piece of literature from the Harlem Renaissance, as well as one one that is definitely worth reading. 


The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald. Could this list really be complete without The Great Gatsby? Absolutely not. This book is a classic for a reason, with themes ranging from disillusionment with the American Dream and class inequalities, it still resonates with audiences in the twenty-first century. The characters are colorful, from the elusive and mysterious Gatsby to the bored and shallow Daisy, which makes the book a fun read. If you weren’t forced to read this book in high school, you should definitely check it out now!


Siddhartha—Hermann Hesse. Originally published in German, Siddhartha is a journey of self-discovery. It is set in ancient India and the main character leaves behind his home in favor of the life of an ascetic. Siddhartha parallels the Buddha and adopts similar practices, such as meditation and renouncing all possessions. Eventually, Siddhartha seeks out the Buddha (referred to as Gotama), however Siddartha does not appreciate how generalized the Buddha’s teachings are, so he returns to his quest for enlightenment alone. This book brings the reader along on its titular character’s journey, compelling them to consider the same questions as Siddhartha and similarly reevaluate their own lives.


Passing—Nella Larsen. This book is about the intertwining lives of two childhood friends, Clare and Irene. Set in Harlem in New York City, the two friends gradually become more and more fascinated with each other’s lives. Passing deals with themes of race, sexuality, and class, among others. Clare passes as white and lives as such with her white husband who does not know her racial identity, which is the main cause of the novel’s tragedies. Both characters struggle against race, gender, and class norms in American society, with Irene being more rigid in these binaries while Clare fluctuates between them. It is definitely an interesting read and is still relevant 100 years after it was written.


The Mysterious Affair at Styles—Agatha Christie. This is the first novel featuring one of the most iconic characters in literature: Hercule Poirot. With his characteristic mustache and punctuality, Poirot is the classic mystery novel detective, so reading his debut story is immensely entertaining. The plot centers around the poisoning of Emily Inglethorpe during World War I, and Poirot unravels the mystery in his typical, fastidious fashion. Christie was highly influential in shaping the mystery genre, and this book contains many of the notable tropes of the genre—such as red herrings, many suspects, and numerous twists and turns that leave the reader anxious to figure out who the murderer is.

Book Review

Horse Crazy by Sarah Maslin Nir

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Memoir/Nonfiction
Pages: 291
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Horse Crazy is an exciting look into the world of horse lovers. In this tribute to these free-spirited animals, Nir explains her deep love for horses and how they have shaped her life, and the lives of many people across the globe. From Nir’s Jewish upbringing under the care of emotionally distant parents to her world travels as a journalist, Nir describes the way horses allowed her to feel accepted. She uses this book as an opportunity to express just how much animals impact our lives. Although the narrative is built around her personal experiences, Nir also explores the importance of horses in other cultures by acknowledging the different beliefs and practices surrounding horses in communities around the world. Ultimately, Nir shows her readers the way animals help us connect despite our differences.

Thoughts

Horse Crazy impressed me with its ability to simultaneously teach and entertain me. Nir’s experience as a journalist really shines through in this work. I was surprised to find myself feeling as if Nir had let me into a secret world—both in her personal experience as the child of a Holocaust survivor and the tight-knit world of horse lovers. Her blend of personal narratives and informational advocacy for the humane treatment of animals made the book consistently engaging. Horse Crazy was the perfect summer read. I would recommend this book to anyone who is an animal lover or who is looking for a lighthearted read.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased reviews.

Creative Justice Youth Symposium

If you are interested in creative writing and social justice, this event might be perfect for you! This symposium will center around using creative writing as a tool for community-building, as well as for resilience. It is for anyone between the ages of 13–24 and will include panels, workshops, and time for people from the community to share their experiences. Aliento and RE:Frame Youth Arts Center have partnered together to create this event.

Tuesday’s theme is “Words that Heal,” Wednesday’s is “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” and Thursday’s is “Undoing to Become: Uplifting the Body, Living the Word.” This is a free event, but you must RSVP in advance because space is limited. It will be a time of reflection, learning and growth. We hope to see you there!


Date(s): July 14–16, 2020
Location: Online
Time: 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

To RSVP and for more information, click here!

4 Modern Movies Adapted from Classics

Some stories are evergreen. They are told and retold in new ways, through new media. They are as relevant today as they ever were. Four of the most popular movie adaptations of well-known classics are listed below.

CluelessJane Austen’s Emma is about the eponymous heroine’s knack for matchmaking and keen eye for finding the perfect partner for everyone but herself. In its 1995 adaptation, Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone, Cher is a poised teenager who is on the top rung of the social ladder in her high school, like Emma Woodhouse is in her village, Highbury. Having made two successful matches, Cher and her best friend Dionne (played by Stacey Dash) decide to take the newly arrived Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy) under their wing. All goes well until Cher misreads a situation and Tai gets her heart broken. The resident cupid of Bronson Alcott High School makes a few surprising discoveries about her own feelings and, for the first time in her perfectly organized life, loses her composure.


10 Things I Hate About YouThis is adapted from the Shakespearean comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. Julia Stiles plays Kat Stratford, the present-day version of the infamous Katherina. The movie gives her a much deeper personality than the original. She is headstrong, cynical, and independent in a generally “unfeminine” way, which, of course, makes her undesirable to most men—especially in contrast with her affable sister, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). But Kat is far from a shrew, and the movie deserves credit for voicing her opinions and not stuffing her into the “difficult women” drawer. Patrick, played by the legendary Heath Ledger, is a refreshing upgrade from Petruchio as he makes no attempt to “tame” Kat. It’s a delight to watch the two find their way into each other’s hearts.


Bridget Jones’ DiaryThe movie is based on a novel of the same name by Helen Fielding, which is inspired by the beloved classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Bridget Jones, played by Renee Zellweger, is the modern-day reincarnation of Elizabeth Bennet, with the same characteristic wit and tendency to get herself into awkward situations from which she needs to be extricated by her friends, who are her lifeline for surviving single life in London. Much like the Bennets, Bridget’s family, especially her mother, never fails to mortify her in public gatherings. Love seems a baffling mystery as Bridget trudges through heartbreak and disappointment and finds resonance in unexpected places.


She’s the ManAlso adapted from a Shakespearean comedy, Twelfth Night, this hilarious movie features Amanda Bynes as Viola who, after a humiliating fight with her boyfriend on the soccer field at school, goes to her brother Sebastian’s (James Kirk) private school, disguised as him, to cover for Sebastian while he goes to London to play music, his true passion. Viola, posing as Sebastian, gets an attractive new roommate in the form of Duke (played by Channing Tatum), and rises to become the star soccer player of the school with Duke’s help. Amidst a few secret crushes and a lot of confusion resulting from Viola hastily switching between her aliases, the day of the game against her old school arrives.

Book Review

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Publisher: Ecco
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Pages: 242
Format: Paperback
Buy Local 
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Summary

In Exciting Times, Ava, Dublin born and bred, finds herself in Hong Kong teaching English to elementary school students while searching for happiness. When petulant roommates threaten to destroy her sanity, Julian, a wealthy financier, offers her the chance to live a much swankier life than her teacher salary can afford. More companions than romantic partners, they enter into an undefined relationship that Ava continually struggles to decipher and maneuver. When Julian goes out of town for work, Ava meets Edith, a Hong Kong lawyer. Edith upsets the strange balance, leading Ava to question her whole relationship with Julian and ultimately her own identity.

Thoughts

With a title like Exciting Times, I had page-turning high hopes, but overall the novel didn’t necessarily live up to the hype for me. I found myself frustrated with its central group of characters (although that could have been Dolan’s intent). I did agree with the back cover’s assessment of Ava having a cold personality—which is evident in some of her interactions with students and colleagues. However, I did not find Julian all that “witty”; his indifference and callousness with Ava is deflating. The appearance of Edith, the Hong Kong lawyer with whom Ava becomes fixated, gives the novel some drama, as she delivers where Julian cannot in terms of affection and commitment. For me however, the love triangle never quite takes off in a way that is very satisfying. 

Dolan’s use of the characters’ careers as plot devices is fascinating. Her dive into the world of finance through Julian’s career was interesting to the point that I actually had to look up certain industry jargon. The peek into Ava’s career teaching grammar to Hong Kong children is also a fun aspect of the novel. This could have a lot to do with the fact that I am studying to be an English teacher, however the little “lessons” that Dolan interweaves into Ava’s inner monologues nicely punctuate certain scenes. 

Dolan’s commentary on social class is also interesting, as the reader vividly experiences Ava’s struggle with fitting into Julian’s crowd of friends and colleagues. Their differences are not just financial, and Ava is made painfully aware of this during the course of their relationship. Anyone who has dated outside their tax bracket will find her dilemma relatable.

Ava deals with these insecurities and doubts by engaging in a quirky habit of composing text and email messages that she never intends to send. She reveals her true feelings through these “drafts” and they make for some of the more humorous areas of the novel. Dolan makes the choice to use an “accidental” transmission of one of the messages as a plot device, and it is effective in revealing Julian’s continued indifference. 

The novel spends a lot of time inside Ava’s head, as she battles her own good judgement to leave what is ultimately a toxic, unfulfilling relationship. Ava’s opportunity for growth, I believe, was stunted despite all of her rumination, and when the novel concludes, she hadn’t really learned much about herself.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

John Green Books Ranked

By now, most of us have at least heard of John Green, even if you haven’t read any of his books. His novels have won multiple awards and many have made it to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Almost all of them have been adapted into a movie or TV show, and for good reason—he has a way of writing that transports the reader into the novel immediately. I am quite the John Green fanatic (if you couldn’t tell), so I decided to create a ranking of his solo novels, ending with my all time favorite at number one. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)


5. Paper Towns. Starting the list at number five is Paper Towns. This novel is great, as all of Green’s are, but I find myself drawn to the others more. As vibrant as the characters are in this book, I always find the ending more anti-climactic than I expected. The novel takes you on such a wild ride to get there, though, that it is absolutely worth it, so I still highly recommend it!

4. An Abundance of Katherines. Next on the list is An Abundance of Katherines. This is Green’s second novel and one of his least well-known, but it is still a great book. My favorite thing about the comic novel is that the main character, Colin, isn’t immediately likable. When you open a book and start reading, there is a pressure to like the protagonist because they are who you’ll spend the book with, so I love that this particular novel breaks that expectation. As much as I love it though, the other three novels on this list have a special place in my heart.

3. Looking for Alaska. Coming in at number three is Looking for Alaska. This is Green’s first novel and the second I ever read. One of the best parts about this book is the characters—they are unbelievably vibrant and alive; you can’t help but feel for each and every one of them. It is a heartbreakingly real story and each time I read it I am moved in a different way. The story is raw, and I think that is what makes it such a page turner. I will always recommend this book. (T/W Suicide)

2. Turtles All the Way Down. Next on the list is Turtles All the Way Down. This is Green’s most recent novel, and naturally I picked it up as soon as it was released. I hold this novel close to my heart because it deals with mental illness, specifically anxiety and OCD. Both of these are hard to write about accurately because there are so many different ways they can affect someone’s life. In my opinion, he did this exceptionally well, creating a character that is relatable and eye-opening. I feel like there aren’t a ton of YA books that deal with these topics, and I am glad Green helped change that. This novel is definitely a must read!

1. The Fault in Our Stars. Rounding out the list at number one is my all time favorite novel, The Fault in Our Stars. This is most likely Green’s most popular novel, but there is good reason for that. At this point, I have probably read it around seven times, and I always end up crying. As I get older and continue to re-read it, I always find new passages that resonate with me. It is truly a timeless novel with beautifully written characters. I think Green tackled the topic of cancer well by showing how awful and ruthless it can truly be. I will always recommend this novel to anyone, just make sure you have your tissues ready!


As always, this list was difficult to make as I love each of his novels so much. However, I am drawn to some more than others and kept that in mind throughout. I did not include any novels Green has co-written either, but those are exceptional as well. Feel free to leave a comment with your ranking, we’d love to know what you think! If you’re interested in purchasing any of these novels, you can do so on Changing Hands website here.

5 Books for Increasing Mindfulness

In our fast-paced and overloaded world, alone time has become a rare commodity. In contrast to the typical hustle and bustle of everyday life, extended time in isolation has allowed for some serious self-reflection. Although I adamantly dislike time alone with my thoughts, there is a lot of good that can potentially grow from these less-than-ideal circumstances. We often find ourselves mindlessly going through the motions in our daily lives, without investing time to reflect on where we are devoting our energy. This is the perfect time to take a step back and re-evaluate the way we are living our lives. As we prepare to head back out into the world, it can be worthwhile to take stock and look at the places where we invest our time and energy. In doing this, I found the following books to be instrumental to creating a life more firmly-centered around mindfulness, intentional living, and overall well-being.


Notes on a Nervous Planet— Matt Haig. Following the publication of his highly-lauded memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, Haig wrote Notes on a Nervous Planet, a book about the ways in which modern society fosters anxiety and unhappiness. His book consists of bite-sized tidbits (that are somewhat chaotically arranged) to advise people on managing their anxiety in the twenty-first century. Haig likens our planet to a sentient being on the brink of a breakdown and explains how the modern world is one that deteriorates our mental well-being. This book is especially versatile in that it is broken up into small segments that are easy to digest and put into practice. The sections I found particularly useful include ‘Maybe,’ which speaks to the transient nature of happiness, ‘an excess of everything,’ in regards to our overloaded lives, and ‘What I tell myself when things get too much,’ a list of reminders when we are feeling overwhelmed.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up—Marie Kondo. While this may seem redundant give the title of the book, I can’t stress enough that this book will change your life. As a firm believer that the state of your living space reflects the state of your mind, Kondo’s book is revolutionary in that it offers tips and tools to create both an organized house and mind. On the surface, this book seems like it would have nothing interesting or practical to offer other than, you know, don’t make a mess. The KonMari method goes far deeper than this, though, and introduces a lifestyle centered around intentionality and mindfulness with your physical possessions. She urges you to only surround yourself with belongings that “spark joy,” and that doing this will simplify every aspect of your life.


Tuesdays with Morrie—Mitch Albom. Mitch Albom tells the story of his old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who is dying from ALS. Instead of being angry or saddened by this news, however, Morrie chooses to focus on the wonderful gift of knowing that he is dying, and the freedom this grants him to live intentionally. Morrie spends his last months teaching Mitch—and, by extension, us—about where we should focus our attention in our lives. Tuesdays with Morrie is a book that I think everyone could benefit from owning and finding time to read once a year. Every time I come back to this book, I learn something new that I can apply to my current situation in life.


10% Happier—Dan Harris. Dan Harris was a newscaster with ABC when he suffered from a panic attack on live television. This event sparked a period of self-reflection in Dan’s life, and, through this, he found his way to meditation. A lifelong skeptic and nonbeliever in meditation, Harris’s book is written specifically for skeptics and lays out in no-nonsense, scientific terms how meditation can be beneficial for the mind and body. Instead of professing the life-changing nature of this practice, however, Harris remains a realist—he explains that engaging in mindfulness activities will make you 10% happier. When the stakes are so low, it’s hard to find a good reason not to introduce meditation as a habit in your life. 


The Little Prince—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This book might seem like an odd addition to the list, given that most of the other books here are of the self-help variety. Personally, I tend to be a bit skeptical of books that tell me how I should live my life, and that’s why I added Saint-Exupéry’s children’s book. The Little Prince is a well-loved classic, and for good reason—this story reminds us in the simplest possible terms where we should be focusing our attention in our lives. We as humans have a tendency to overcomplicate things, and this book is the perfect way to recenter and remind ourselves that “what is essential to the heart is invisible to the eyes.” A simple, oft-stated message, but one that is sadly kicked to the curb in our hurried and fast-paced lives. 

Book Review

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith

Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Red Bluff, Mississippi has both literally and symbolically been transformed by the kudzu vines that creep ever forward. This town provides the landscape for characters such as Colburn, a sculptor who was returned to his hometown vaguely searching for answers about his traumatic childhood; Myer, the older lawman who desperately believes that there is good left in Red Bluff; Celia, the bartender; and a family of vagrants who care little for one another.

These startlingly human characters all meet in Red Bluff and they are all impacted by the town itself—struggling against it, the encroaching kudzu, and themselves. Regret, violence, and hatred mark the landscape and make you wonder if any good can be found in Red Bluff at all.

Thoughts

This Southern gothic’s primary strength and weakness is its prose. I have never read a book that is written in quite this style before and I enjoyed it immensely. Its fragmented sentences create a frenzied sense of urgency while at the same time lengthening and slowing down the story, almost placing it in a realm outside of time. I read this book rapidly, even though each of the minutes spent reading it felt much longer than they should. The only issue I found is that this style lacks clarity. While this seems intentional on Smith’s part (since the style mimics the landscape itself), I did find myself having to reread passages to truly understand what was happening (or, at the very least, who was speaking).

Throughout the novel, Smith describes the “brutality of indifference.” The kudzu swallows towns without caring what it harms or who it leaves behind, Colburn struggles to find meaning and purpose, and the vagrant family who moved to Red Bluff is so marked by indifference that they barely even know their own names. These are the things that cause the most pain in the novel. I found it refreshing that the evil that lurks in the town is not malicious but rather apathetic, because I rarely read books that frame wickedness in this way. 

As someone who grew up in a small town—though not quite as small as Red Bluff—I can definitely relate to the apathy that can often permeate throughout them. I loved reading about a small town that was filled with such an evil caused by indifference because I have observed that for my entire life. It was a refreshing take on small towns, since most of what we read about them either glorifies the experience or asserts that they are filled with bad or crazy people. The people in Blackwood were not evil, but rather apathetic and stuck. However, the relationships that you form with others can still be meaningful despite all of this, something that the novel captures excellently.

I definitely recommend this novel to fans of gothic literature, people who grew up in small towns, and to people who are looking to reading something different and interesting!


Thanks to the Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC in
exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

4 For Your Ears: Bookish Podcasts for the Summer

I recently began listening to podcasts to give my eyes some relief from screen and print. These podcasts represent a range of my regular listening—two are concerned with language itself, while the following two focus on book reviews and poetry readings, respectively. I’ve found them to be a great way to explore and revisit language, poems, and books. It’s my hope that you enjoy them as well!


The Allusionist—Helen Zaltzman. From swear tablets found in bogs around Bath (68, 2017) to how transfolk maneuver their words to match their experiences of gender (56, 2017), The Allusionist focuses on language in its funny, serious, creative, and everyday functions. There is an entire episode devoted to how apples get their names and another about polari (99), which was the argot that many gay men in England used to reveal and conceal identity simultaneously.

Zaltzman also includes additional material for each episode on the podcast’s website, https://www.theallusionist.org/. For the episode about polari, materials include a link to the Polari Bible, a link to Round the Horne (a polari-loving radio program that aired from the mid-to-late 1960s), gay language in the Philippines, and much more. Zaltzman might also be the funniest person around formally trained as a Medievalist.


A Way With Words—Martha & Grand Barrett. This podcasting duo composed of an author/journalist and lexicographer/linguist talk about family expressions, where words come from, current slang, and classic sayings. They’re like the teachers we all love the most—lively, engaging, thoughtful, and warm. More about the podcast can be found at: https://www.waywordradio.org/about/

In “Pie in the Sky” a 6 foot 8 listened shares his favorite pithy remarks to strangers’ comments about his height (2012). The same episode also covers why leg cramps are called charley horses, and where the phrase “pie in the sky” originated. “Had the Radish” (2019) centers on a phrase commonly used by a listener when fed up or worn out. The phrase came to the upstate New York listener from France by the way of Quebec. The French phrase je n’ai plus de radis—which translates to “I don’t even have a radish”—originally expressed poverty.


The New York Times Book Review Podcast—Various Hosts. Wide-ranging as The Times itself, the Book Review Podcast explores fiction and non-fiction alike with a variety of hosts guiding the program. Trends in the publishing world and literary criticisms are also common subjects. In the episode “The Angry Children Are Our Future,” an interview of Lydia Millet, author of A Children’s Bible—an allegorical novel about climate change and a family vacation—precedes a discussion of Barry Gewen’s The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World.

The background of what constitutes a children’s Bible and how Millet’s novel departs from typical conventions of a coming-of-age tale offers material for contemplation for readers and writers alike. More about the podcast, including the option to stream content, can be found at https://www.nytimes.com/column/book-review-podcast.


Poetry Unbound—Pádraig Ó Tuama. “I need to feel the air in my throat and vocal cords constrict to make the poem real,” says the podcaster himself before he reads the poem “1383” by Emily Dickinson. He reads it well and follows the reading with his interpretation of the poem—how the fire described in the poem is like the fire that keeps friendship alive across distance and time. It’s a topical episode from late March of 2020, following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Other episodes are topical as well, though in a more general way. The episode “A Poem to See What’s Overlooked” offers a reading of a poem by Lemn Sissay that addresses what becomes forgotten. It’s a poem that demands remembrance, according to Ó Tuama, of the flat beer and missing buttons alike. “Like” is the word Ó Tuama brings our attention to throughout its repetition in the poem and his experience coming out as a gay man. Attentive and thoughtful, this podcast rewards the ears and the mind. More about the podcast can be found at https://radiopublic.com/poetryunbound-69qD3w/s1!30fd6.


Guest post courtesy of Nick Mueller

Book Review

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Thriller, Bildungsroman
Pages: 784
Format: Paperback
Buy Local
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

The Goldfinch follows thirteen-year-old Theo Decker, the son of a loving mother and reckless father. The young New-Yorker’s life is forever changed when he miraculously survives a terrible accident that kills his mother. Theo unwittingly steals a masterpiece from the museum where the tragedy occurred, and the captivating little painting provides a source of hope and comfort, as it reminds him of his mother. Theo is soon taken in by a wealthy friend, but he lives tormented by longing for the life he once had.

In adulthood, Theo’s stolen painting propels him deep into the art underworld, and he finds himself leading a double life as an antique dealer and as a con. He soon becomes entwined in a dangerous web of deceit, one that leaves him alienated and at risk of losing everything. Theo’s story is one of self-discovery, legacy, and the ways in which a single event can forever alter the course of our lives.

Thoughts

It goes without saying that Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is a real page-turner—as the title suggests, the story largely revolves around an (accidental) art theft. The plot is brilliantly weaved together, and the reader is plagued with the same anxieties as the protagonist when it comes to the stolen masterpiece. Theo is a thoroughly interesting character to follow, in that his life is tinged with loss and continual sorrows, and the reader witnesses first-hand how these trials change him from a hopeful boy to a cynical adult. Theo also meets a host of interesting characters throughout the novel—from Pippa, an impish musician who was also present during the bombing, to Hobie, a kindly antique store-owner turned father-figure, the book is certainly not lacking in personality.

The only fault I found in this book comes from the way it tended to drag on in places. Some plot points (such as the time Theo spends with Boris, his bedraggled, drug-addicted friend) felt unnecessarily drawn out and did little to advance the plot. The only purpose I could see this serving would be to make sudden plot advances all the more jarring for the reader—you are lulled into a false sense of security, only to have the rug immediately pulled out from under you as the plot thickens.

One of the things I found most memorable about The Goldfinch comes from the fact that the message of the story doesn’t become apparent until the end of the book. Throughout the novel, I found myself (worriedly) wondering if the plot was building towards any meaningful revelations, and was delighted to find that Tartt did an excellent job of tying the events of the novel to universally contemplated aspects of the human experience (you know, for those of us who can’t personally relate to Theo’s dabbling in art theft). Of the many themes expressed, there is a beautiful message about our loving art because of the ways that loved objects take on a life of their own, as well as serving to connect us to some greater beauty. The novel also tackles ideas such as whether or not to follow a heart that can’t be trusted, the times when bad actions can still lead to good outcomes, and challenging the notion of free will. In short, Tartt poses some of the great questions that we as humans should be contemplating without necessarily giving us the answers. Instead, she plants seeds of thought and leaves you as the reader to ponder the subject yourself and arrive at your own conclusions.

Overall, this book is a vastly entertaining story about a young boy placed in increasingly despairing circumstances. Beyond this, however, The Goldfinch will be especially loved by those looking for a revelatory piece dealing with topics such as legacy, love, fate, and beauty.