Over the course of her three novels since 1992 – each published 10 or more years apart – Donna Tartt has forged a reputation as a titanic literary talent. The publishing rights for her 1992 debut, The Secret History, published when she was just 29, were bought for $450,000, many times the normal amount for a debut novel. That murder mystery set among a group of Classics students became a multimillion-selling phenomenon that was eventually translated into 24 languages.
Its expansive 2002 follow-up, The Little Friend, focussed on the criminal underbelly of a Mississippi town, from the point of view of an intrepid 12-year-old girl attempting to unravel the mystery of her brother’s death. And her latest, The Goldfinch, is a sweeping epic about bereavement, art and immortality that’s shot through with reflections on addiction and friendship, and won many awards upon its publication in 2013.
Pre-production on the film adaptation has swung into gear and the 15-year-old Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard has been attached – here’s what you need to know about it.
1. It’s about an art thief
The Goldfinch is the epic story of Theo Decker, a teenager who survives a terrorist attack in a museum and grows up in possession of a world-famous Fabritius painting that he steals from the museum while in shock from the attack. The attack knocks his life for six: his mother is killed in the explosion, after which Theo goes to live with some wealthy friends in New York, before later heading to Las Vegas and Amsterdam, among other cities. The painting of the film’s title is the one constant across the journey – it’s the only link he still has to his late mother – but it also turns his life upside-down.
2. There are loads of drugs in it
Theo’s best friend Boris is at once a hilarious and tragic character: full of personality, he’s probably author Donna Tartt’s most vivid character yet. The son of a Ukrainian emigré, Boris introduces Theo to a world of booze and drugs after the two misfits meet at school and form a tight friendship. As Theo grows up, though, the drugs take hold and his life becomes nightmarish: we can expect Ansel Elgort to portray Theo both as a high-functioning addict and as he goes through withdrawal.
3. The cast and crew are looking incredible
The most exciting casting to date is Finn Wolfhard, who is set to play the young version of Boris – the hilarious Ukrainian teenager Theo befriends at school. Playing the older version of Boris is Aneurin Barnard, who you may recognise as another Boris from BBC One’s War and Peace.
Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) will play Xandra, a Las Vegas dealer and girlfriend of Theo’s dad, and Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games) will play Hobie, a kindly furniture repairman who befriends Theo after the accident. Luke Wilson has also been attached to the project, possibly as Theo’s alcoholic father.
Screenwriter Peter Straughan, who won a BAFTA and was Oscar-nominated for his Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy adaptation, is in charge of adapting Donna Tartt’s novel, while John Crowley – who helmed the sweeping Brooklyn – is set to direct.
4. It won a Pulitzer
Donna Tartt won 2014’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was described as “A beautifully written coming-of-age novel with exquisitely drawn characters that follows a grieving boy’s entanglement with a small famous painting that has eluded destruction, a book that stimulates the mind and touches the heart.”
5. It’s out in 2019
Filming has not yet begun, but we’ll continue to update this page as more information becomes available.