The 25 Best Quotes from THE GOLDFINCH

in Bookish and Book-Related

I often tell people that Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch (2013) is my favorite book—and it’s true. The connection I felt when I read The Goldfinch in 2014 radically changed my life. In the most perfect way, the novel made me acutely aware of the possibilities of literature. By that I mean I became cognizant of the effect a story like that could have on me. At the same time, the reading experience caused an awakening in me; I started to unpack the craft mastery needed to write a story like that, one that is intricately plotted, emotionally engaging, and profoundly affecting.

After reading The Goldfinch, I decided I needed to leave my administrative assistant job and embark on a career dedicated to recommending and, maybe someday, if I could do it, writing stories like that. I first went to library science graduate school thinking I’d want to help connect people with books like that, but later I realized I wanted to learn how to write books like The Goldfinch. I can’t say for sure if I’m on that path…hopefully I am

In any case, my love for Tartt’s novel has not let up since reading the book five years ago, and I even wrote a post on this blog with book recommendations for fans of The Goldfinch, which I updated this year with even more great books to read if you loved The Goldfinch. In this post, I’m going to share some of the best quotes from The Goldfinch. Each one of these The Goldfinch quotes showcases Donna Tartt’s masterpiece, written in lush literary style that is confessional and intimate as our hero and narrator, Theo Decker, speaks from his heart. I’ve included page numbers that correspond to the first hardcover edition. Part of a book group? You can use these quotes as discussion questions for The Goldfinch.

25 Great Quotes from The Goldfinch

“I had the epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was the secret of the universe.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 6 – “Wind, Sand and Stars,” Section xv: page 335

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section vii: page 757

“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section viii: page 761

“That life – whatever else it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section viii: page 771

“Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 10 – “The Idiot,” Section xx: page 594

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section i: page 707

“Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it’s going to kill us.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section viii: page 770

“But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 3 – “Park Avenue,” Section iv: page 93

“When you feel homesick,’ he said, ‘just look up. Because the moon is the same wherever you go.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 5 – “Badr al-Dine,” Section xv: page 254

“—if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section vii: page 758

“And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section viii: page 771

“Sometimes it’s about playing a poor hand well.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section i: page 707

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section viii: page 770

“…as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section viii: page 771

“Every new event—everything I did for the rest of my life—would only separate us more and more: days she was no longer a part of, an ever-growing distance between us. Every single day for the rest of my life, she would only be further away.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 3 – “Park Avenue,” Section iv: page 89

“To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 10 – “The Idiot,” Section xxiii: page 603

“Who was it that said that coincidence was just God’s way of remaining anonymous?” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section vii: page 758

“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that, in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.” François De La Rochefoucauld — The Goldfinch, quoted in the title page for Book III

“’The world won’t come to me,’ he used to say, ‘so I must go to it.’” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 4 – “Morphine Lollipop,” Section i: page 139

“Can’t good come around sometimes through some strange back doors?” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section vii: page 758

“As long as I am acting out of love, I feel I am doing best I know how.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section v: page 745

“She was the golden thread running through everything, a lens that magnified beauty so that the whole world stood transfigured in relation to her, and her alone.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 9 – “Everything of Possibility,” Section vi: page 464

“He was a planet without an atmosphere.” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 4 – “Morphine Lollipop,” Section ix: page 160

“Isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty? Those first images that crack your heart wide open and you spend the rest of your life chasing, or trying to recapture, in one way or another?” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section vii: page 757

“Who’s to say that gamblers don’t really understand it better than anyone else? Isn’t everything worthwhile a gamble? Can’t good come around sometimes through some strange back doors?” — The Goldfinch, Chapter 12 – “The Rendezvous Point,” Section vii: page 758

All quotes (c) Donna Tartt, 2013

Sarah S. Davis is the founder of Broke by Books, a blog about her journey as a bipolar writer and reader. Sarah's writing about books has appeared on Book Riot, Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, BookRags, PsychCentral, and more. She is currently an MFA candidate in Vermont College of Fine Arts's Writing for Children and Young Adults program. Sarah also writes romance under the pen name Sadie Fox.

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