Donna Tartt: her novel The Goldfinch worms its way out of a catacomb of despair. Photograph: Fred R Conrad/The New York Times

Donna Tartt’s splendidly time-consuming, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is giving me heart

Little girls’ lives were circumscribed by school, Sindy dolls and the imminent arrival of stigmata

‘My friend was edgy. The area was littered with “sold” signs and there was every possibility that by the time he’d digested his nettle-leaf and humanitarian sandwich, house prices would have jumped another grand or so.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

My friend calculated monthly repayments on his mobile. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘Can’t afford it. What’s happened this city?’

‘We would lie around in the grubby evening sun, looking across to the Twin Towers, those gleaming sentry gates to Manhattan.’ Above, the Tribute in Light memorial in remembrance September 11th. Photograph: Thinkstock

Of the small, damp group gathered on the scraggy hill that afternoon, I was the only one still living in Ireland

‘I decided to send the coat to the cleaners for a few repairs’

She never tried to peddle life in a bucket of charm; our conversations were bracing

‘The Photo Album of Ireland’ takes in Brownies, Polaroids, Instamatics and even photo-booth selfies

Most of the images in an exhibition of snaps from 30 or so families and individuals scattered around the island have a haunting f(...)

‘The beautiful woman I met at a bar told me she wasn’t a lesbian, but if she was, she would like to sleep with Fiona Shaw [above].’ Photograph: Tullio M Puglia/Getty Images

It’s funny, Sister, how every year around this time, when the tan lines are fading, I think of you

My son phoned me. He sounded low. ‘I’ve lost my wallet,’ he said. ‘Everything’

It had been a funny old week: bits of bad news had been stalking us, illness was in the air, plans were being remade

‘I hope that those impressive daughters have a lovely American summer’

An encounter with young Irish women on their way to the US reminded me of my teenage trip there. I hope their long legs tan, the t(...)

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