Kamila Shamsie in The Guardian:
It is dangerous to write openings as compelling as Donna Tartt's. In The Secret History, the one-page prologue gives us a murder and a narrator who has helped to commit it. The Little Friend starts with the death of a child who, by page 15, is found hanging by a piece of rope from a tree branch, his red hair “the only thing about him that was the right colour any more”. And now, in The Goldfinch, Tartt has a 50‑page two-part opening. In the first section, the narrator, Theo Decker, is holed up in an Amsterdam hotel, looking at newspapers written in Dutch, which he can't understand; he is searching for his name in articles illustrated with pictures of police cars and crime scene tapes. Before any of this is explained, the story moves back 14 years to the day Theo's mother dies, when he is on the cusp of adolescence. Her death takes place in New York's Metropolitan Museum, as a consequence of an exploding bomb – mother and son are in separate rooms when the bomb blast occurs, and the descriptions of Theo regaining consciousness in the wreckage, and trying to find his way out of the ripped-apart museum before returning home, expecting to find his mother there, are written in astonishingly gripping prose. This is, of course, where the danger comes in: if, at the end of the kind of set piece to which the word “climactic” should emphatically apply, you still have 700 pages to go, aren't you setting your readers up for disappointment? Astonishingly, the answer is no.
…Plot and character and fine prose can take you far – but a novel this good makes you want to go even further. The last few pages of the novel take all the serious, big, complicated ideas beneath the surface and hold them up to the light. Not for Tartt the kind of clever riffs, halfway between standup comedy and op-ed columns, which are too commonly found in contemporary fiction. Instead, when plot comes to an end, she leads us to a place just beyond it – a place of meaning, or, as she refers to it, “a rainbow edge … where all art exists, and all magic. And … all love.”