August 20, 2014 – Notes

 Full attendance:

Liz Clarke, Vivian Krone, Janice Loschiavo, Lois Pagnozzi, Meta Pitrelli, Cathy Quinn, Sharon Rome, Donna Sabetta, Barbara Santillo, Tina Segali, Marilyn Sinisi, Jeri Stangl, Joan Swensen.

Book & Author: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Barbara had gifts for everyone from her recent trip to Ireland: beautiful bookmarks featuring Celtic art. After expressing regret for having missed the last meeting and her happiness that everyone was in attendance, she noted that Mary Gordon published a new book. Other book club members reminded Barbara that Mary Gordon already appears twice on our list of authors, while Shakespeare is not represented at all.

Notes on The Goldfinch

  • Overall, the discussion mirrored the wide-ranging media reviews and produced little consensus among the members.
  • The comments about Theo’s mother were diverse: she had good qualities as well as bad (Lois); she was one-dimensional (Tina); the author didn’t fully develop her.
  • It was noted that there were Harry Potter-like elements in the novel: Boris called Theo “Potter”; Hobie was reminiscent of Hagrid; like Harry, several characters were orphans or near-orphans.
  • Hobie had unconditional love for Theo, so it was difficult to understand why Theo stayed with Boris (Meta).
  • It was noted that no one followed up with Theo to see how he was doing. The system failed him.
  • Barbara wondered why there was little talk about the explosion in the aftermath. Liz commented that it really didn’t have anything to do with the story.
  • The group commented that there was too much time spent on Theo and Boris’ drug use. Vivian pointed out that Theo had his own set of morals.
  • Regarding the Barbours:
    • Barbara was reminded of Catcher in the Rye.
    • Donna pointed out that Mrs. Barbour wasn’t warm even to her own children. Her heart was in the right place, but not fully. Meta underscored that Mrs. Barbour accepted Theo as a responsibility, rather than out of the goodness of her heart. Jeri noted how she hid herself in her room.
    • Kit was a rich princess who wanted to marry Theo, as long as they could maintain separate lives.
    • No one was sure why Platt was thrown out of school.
  • Liz pointed out how, at the end of the novel, Theo feels the futility of being born only to die. The Goldinch, like Theo, is fettered, but while Theo will die, the Goldfinch will live on.
  • Sharon felt the Goldfinch was Theo’s mother.
  • Vivian questioned whether Welty was conducting business underhandedly, without Hobie’s


  • The group discussed the homosexual element in Theo and Boris’ friendship. Janice mentioned that 13-year old boys often question whether they are homosexual. Donna pointed out that the author had done a great job of narrating the book from a boy’s point of view.
  • Lois noted that perhaps Hobie and Welty were life partners as well as business partners.
  • Barbara suggested that the author was working toward the question “what is art” all along.

Quotable Quotes

Page 723

“When I was a boy, after my mother died, I always tried hard to hold her in my mind as I was falling asleep so maybe I’d dream of her, only I never did. Or, rather, I dreamed of her constantly, only as absence, not presence: a breeze blowing through a just-vacated house, her handwriting on a notepad, the smell of her perfume, streets in strange lost towns where I knew she’d been walking only a moment before but had just vanished, a shadow moving away against a sunstruck wall. Sometimes I spotted her in a crowd, or in a taxicab pulling away, and these glimpses of her I treasured despite the fact that I was never able to catch up with her. Always, ultimately, she eluded me: I’d always just missed her call, or misplaced her phone number; or run up breathless and gasping to the place where was supposed to be, only to find her gone.”

Page 761 (the lure of self-destruction)

“What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight towards a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster? … If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? …Or-like Boris-is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?”

Name the person who said:

  • What are my mother’s legs doing on my body?
  • Let’s talk about Welty’s ring.
  • The author takes 50 pages to tell one thing.
  • Can we talk about the ring now?
  • I saw two goldfinches yesterday.
  • When are we going to talk about the ring?
  • I wish there were a Hobie in my life.

The book earned a 3.5 rating.

Next Meeting: Wednesday, September 10, 5:00 p.m., at Joan’s house. Jeri made the next selection: Waiting for Snow in Havana, by Carlos Eire. Food assignments are as follows: Jeri and Barbara will bring salads; Cathy will bring fruit; Marilyn will bring a dessert.

Mark your calendars for the discussion of our 75th book on Thursday, October 1, 5:00 p.m. at Joan’s house. Joan is selecting the book. Barbara suggested the “founding mothers” of the group give speeches!

Submitted by Tina Segali

August 21, 2014