I thought we’d kick off the New Year with two of the biggest books of 2013. Both couple length with accessible, engaging prose that seduces the reader all the way to the end.
Donna Tartt made her name with The Secret History over 20 years ago, and it has since gained cult status. The Goldfinch, her third book, takes a young teenager as its protagonist.
Doctor Sleep brings back one of Stephen King’s most memorable characters. Danny Torrance lived through a lot in The Shining, but surviving the Overlook Hotel was, apparently, only the beginning.
Oh, and Stephen King wrote the front page New York Times Book Review piece on The Goldfinch. He declares it, “a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.”
TARTT, Donna. The Goldfinch. 771p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2013. Tr $30. ISBN 9780316055437. LC 2013028907.
Adult/High School–On their final day together, 13-year-old Theo and his mother are visiting the Metropolitan Museum. Theo notices the ginger-haired girl with her grandfather just minutes before the explosion. In the haze of dust and pain and confusion that follows, the grandfather, with his final breath, begs Theo to take a small, invaluable painting, The Goldfinch. Theo stumbles out of the wreckage, carrying the painting in a nylon shopping bag, little realizing that he has forever lost his mother and gained a burden that might cost his life. Theo’s adolescence plays out across many landscapes. The comfortable security of Hobie’s antique shop, where he is loved without question, becomes his true north. His life with the family of a schoolmate is a lesson in wealthy pretense. But it is in Las Vegas, where Theo lives with his estranged father, that Theo meets his lifeline: Boris, a teen with a patchwork of international experience. Boris bursts into Theo’s gloom like a well-intentioned missile, crashing against Theo’s constructions of morality while fusing the kind of male bond that comes of shared danger. Boris is hysterically funny and preternaturally wise. The scope of this novel is epic and calls to mind many other great literary works. Readers may be reminded of the tremendous coincidences of Dickens, or Salinger’s blend of urban sophistication and adolescent angst. There are also dashes of Dostoyevsky in Theo’s guilt-ridden preoccupation with his theft of The Goldfinch. Ambitious teen readers will love Tartt’s beautiful writing, as well as her unforgettable characters and settings.–Diane Colson, Nashville Public Library, TN
KING, Stephen. Doctor Sleep. 544p. Scribner. Sept. 2013. Tr $30. ISBN 9781476727653; ebk. ISBN 9781476727660.
Adult/High School–Who can resist finding out what happened to Danny Torrance after the Overlook Hotel exploded in a ball of flame? King plays to fans of The Shining (Doubleday, 1977) by bringing back the apparitions from the Overlook, who continue to haunt Danny until his mother calls on Dick Hallorann to teach her son how to control them. As a young adult, Dan drinks to dull his abilities. Intent on self-destruction, he lands in Frazier, New Hampshire and meets Billy Freeman and Casey Kingsley. Billy becomes his friend and Casey his AA sponsor. Working at the local hospice, Dan becomes known as Doctor Sleep for his gift of easing the final moments of the dying. Then there’s Abra who, as a baby, predicts the events of 9/11. Her grandmother and parents are terrified to reveal her powers to anyone, but a trusted pediatrician determines that at the very least she has telekinetic, telepathic and psychic abilities. Abra makes contact with Dan by “writing” on a chalkboard in his room, and they carry on a correspondence. At 12, she senses the True Knot, a parasitic tribe that moves across the country via RV and lives on the steam from children with the shining, which is gathered by torturing their victims. Rose the Hat, their leader, senses Abra in return and decides to capture her. The novel builds to a final showdown that brings all of its characters (including The Overlook) together. Given the recent popularity of television’s Under the Dome and unwavering interest in The Shining, both the movie and the novel, libraries can expect demand from teens.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City