The American Dream by Steven J Smith
This is a short novella, set in New York in the 1920s about an Englishman experiencing his own version of the American Dream, as he falls in love with a rich socialite. This is a story of the ‘Jazz Age’ with all of its’ shocking excess.
It’s hard to articulate just how much–and why–The Goldfinch held such power for me as a reader. Always a sucker for a good boy-and-his-mom story, I probably was taken in at first by the cruelly beautiful passages in which 13-year-old Theo Decker tells of the accident that killed his beloved mother and set his fate. But even when the scene shifts–first Theo goes to live with his schoolmate’s picture-perfect (except it isn’t) family on Park Avenue, then to Las Vegas with his father and his trashy wife, then back to a New York antiques shop–I remained mesmerized. Along with Boris, Theo’s Ukrainian high school sidekick, and Hobie, one of the most wonderfully eccentric characters in modern literature, Theo–strange, grieving, effete, alcoholic and often not close to honorable Theo–had taken root in my heart. Still, The Goldfinch is more than a 700-plus page turner about a tragic loss: it’s also a globe-spanning mystery about a painting that has gone missing, an examination of friendship, and a rumination on the nature of art and appearances. Most of all, it is a sometimes operatic, often unnerving and always moving chronicle of a certain kind of life. “Things would have turned out better if she had lived,” Theo said of his mother, fourteen years after she died. An understatement if ever there was one, but one that makes the selfish reader cry out: Oh, but then we wouldn’t have had this brilliant book! –Sara Nelson