Just in case you forgot someone—or forgot to get yourself something wonderful to read in the dark days ahead—here are some terrific books: a jewel of a novel plus some gems in brief. Want to win a copy of The King’s Grave? To enter to win, comment below by answering the question: What was your favorite book from 2013?
A Sparkling Jewel
by Donna Tartt
Little Brown. 771 pp.
I took the longest time about getting to this one. Seven hundred and seventy-one pages! Who has time for that? But curiosity about all the raves got the better of me. So I plunged in. And found myself so absorbed I wanted it never to end.
It’s the story of 13-year-old Theo Decker, whose father, an irresponsible alcoholic, has abandoned Theo and his doting, artist-loving mother. Because of a sudden torrential downpour, Theo and his mother, heading elsewhere, take temporary refuge in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s the wrong place at the wrong time. While Theo and his mother are looking at 17th Century Dutch paintings, out of the blue a terrorist bomb suddenly explodes, leaving scores of severely injured people and quite a few dead ones, including, although Theo doesn’t know it at first, his mother. She’s not in the same gallery as he is when the bomb goes off and, fighting billowing clouds of smoke and chunks of crashing masonry, he’s trying desperately to find her. But he stops his search to tend to an old man with a bloodied head. Then, dazed, scared, unable to think clearly, and not sure why he does it except that the old man seems to be telling him to, Theo takes “The Goldfinch,” a tiny painting by Carel Fabritius, a contemporary of Rembrandt, down from the wall, shoves it into a bag, and attempts to make his way out of the unlit, debris-strewn museum. Brushing against unmoving bodies, stumbling past a disconnected limb here, a head without a top there, wanting only to be reunited with his mother, Theo finally finds a path through the wreckage, emerges onto a Fifth Avenue packed with ambulances, police cars, firetrucks, and hordes of panicked people. Another bomb is about to go off. Theo heads for home, sure his mother has decided to do the same and will be waiting there to rendezvous with him.