The fragility of art and the importance of preserving what is precious are key themes in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. They are also ideas familiar to fans of the Mississippi-born novelist, who has only written three (but much cherished) books. Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, was a sensation upon its publication in 1992 but its admirers had to wait more than a decade for its follow up, The Little Friend, and another 11 years still for The Goldfinch.
Tartt says she was inspired to write The Goldfinch after learning about the Taliban’s destruction of priceless Buddha statues in Afghanistan. The novel tells the story of a young boy named Theo who survives a deadly bombing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art – a blast that kills his mother – and takes possession of a painting he salvages from the rubble: the 1654 Carel Fabritius masterpiece of the title.
Kirsty Wark interviews Tartt about the inspirations behind The Goldfinch, her writing process, where she does her best work, and what might be next.