My favourite of the summer was definitely The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart.
An absolute pleasure to read. Character-driven, it raised some intriguing questions about friendship, beauty, morality, intention and fate.
The only truths that matter to me are the ones I don't, and can't understand... I don't care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here's the truth: life is catastrophe. (p.767)With a denouement like that, you'd think the book is nihilistic and bleak, but it isn't. On the same page: "Glint of brightness on a barely there chain. Patch of sunlight on a yellow wall."
The novel was a short course in art appreciation and introduced me to Fabritius, a Dutch master and pupil of Rembrandt, and his little Golfinch:
The bird looks out at us It's not idealized or humanized. It's very much a bird. Watchful, resigned. There is no moral or story... I hear only too well what's being said to me, a psst from an alleyway as Hobie put it, across four hundred years of time... It's there in the light-rinsed atmosphere, the brush strokes he permits us to see, up close, for exactly what they are - hand worked flashes of pigment, the very passage of the bristles visible - and then, a a distance, the miracle... the slide of transubstantiation where paint is paint and yet also feather and bone... The magic point where every idea and its opposite are equally true... (p.766)Incidentally, the AGO has a Fabritius, Still Life: Fish. There aren't many to be found, so its a real treasure, and worth the trip to see it in person.