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The Little Friend [Paperback]

Donna Tartt
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

6 Jun 2005
Twelve-year-old Harriet is doing her best to grow up, which is not easy as her mother is permanently on medication, her father has silently moved to another city, and her serene sister rarely notices anything. All of them are still suffering from the shocking and mysterious death of her brother Robin twelve years earlier, and it seems to Harriet that the family may never recover. So, inspired by Captain Scott, Houdini, and Robert Louis Stevenson, she sets out with her only friend Hely to find Robin's murderer and punish him. But what starts out as a child's game soon becomes a dark and dangerous journey into the menacing underworld of a small Mississippi town.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (6 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747573646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747573647
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Ten years in the writing, it can hardly be said that The Little Friend, Donna Tartt's second novel and the follow-up to her phenomenally successful and assured debut The Secret History, was rushed out. But was it worth the wait? Write about what you know is an old adage and much of the appeal of her first book was that its sense of place--an exclusive New England campus was clearly and so adroitly drawn from intimate experience. Here, the Mississippi-born Tartt utilises, piercingly on occasions, the American landscape of her own childhood.

The Cleves--Charlotte, Grandma Edith, Great Aunt Adelaide, Aunts Libby and Tat--are a southern family of noble stock but, by the early 1970s, diminished numbers and wealth; haunted by the motiveless, unsolved murder of 9-year-old Robin, "their dear little Robs", a decade earlier. (The novel opens, a la Bunny's corpse in The Secret History, with his body found hanging from a black-tupelo tree in the garden: "the toes of his limp tennis shoes dangled six inches above the grass.") Harriet, Charlotte's youngest child, "neither sweet nor pretty" like her sister, Allison, but "smart" was a baby when Robin died. Now a precocious, bookish pre-teen, she is convinced she can unravel the mystery of his death. Her chief suspects are the Ratliffs, a local clan of speed-dealing ne'er-do-wells, one of whom, Danny, had been in Robin's class. (The Ratliffs own sorry histories, and in particular the corrosive influence of matriarch Gum, are tidily juxtaposed throughout the book with the varying fortunes of the Cleves.) Harriet enlists Hely, her willing schoolyard disciple, to help investigate.

For a while the novel takes on a positively Nancy Drew-esque hue; Harriet and Hely the spies, sneaking into buildings, making off with poisonous snakes and escaping from drug-addled trailer trash on bicycles. In a significant departure from The Secret History though, Tartt does not seem unduly concerned about plot and, or, pacing. She's interested in characterisation and the bickering aunts and so many of the minor characters, the odious car dealer Mr Dial, for example, "all rectitude and pickiness, sweet moral outrage itself", are realised wonderfully. This isn't to say it's not well plotted; it is, as the dénouement eventually reveals, but it is rather languid and things can get a bit soggy midway. (Overuse of the adjective "stolidly", a word that unavoidably, if quite erroneously, calls to mind heavy fruitcake, doesn't really help either.) Tartt's Southern Gothic saga may lack the page-turning thrill of her last novel but it's, ultimately, a no less impressive or rewarding work of fiction. --Travis Elborough --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘Beautifully measured prose that sets the scene draws us into the extraordinary story that lingers long in the mind’ -- Observer

‘One of my favourite books of all time . . . Her prose is incredibly rich and intricate, almost baroque’ -- Nigel Slater, Word

‘You leave the book mesmerised by the world … Brilliant’ -- Irish Independent

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 114 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternates between gripping and slow 26 Oct 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The Little Friend is Donna Tartt's long awaited second novel after The Secret History. Though it shares a dense prose style with the earlier book, it is quite different in atmosphere and setting. A twelve year old girl, Harriet, spends a summer in the 1970s trying to find out who killed her brother Robin 12 years before. She has her own ideas about who is reponsible and with her friend Hely she sets about proving her suspicions. But what starts out as a fairly simple idea becomes ever more complicated, due to the large intertwining cast of characters around Harriet. She finds herself buffeted about by the adults around her. This is no simple whodunnit. It is a book about moving from childhood innocence towards maturity and adulthood, something Harriet has been dreading as she looks on her approaching puberty with horror. It is also a book about morality, and actions and consequences. But perhaps more than anything it is a book about family, an old southern family torn apart by the grief that still haunts them twelve years after the death of their golden child. They are living in the era after the civil rights movement, when people have had to adapt to new ways of living, and yet the traditional racism is still evident in the relationships between the book's family and their black housekeepers, which Harriet witnesses in shame and anger.The pacing of this book is up and down. Gripping at times, but slow in other places due to long dense sections of description, sometimes beautifully written, other times wearing and dull. The last hundred pages or so are hard to put down, and there are a number of tense, dramatic and somtimes darkly humorous scenes right through the book. The character of Harriet is extremely well drawn, and sympathetic, as is her friend Hely and the Ratliff family. Read more ›
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A UNIQUELY PERSONAL READING 25 Nov 2002
By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Donna Tartt, novelist, essayist, critic, and author of the blockbuster "The Secret History" brings a uniquely personal understanding to her reading of "The Little Friend."

A richly imagined story of familial ties and the pursuit of truth, Ms. Tartt's latest offering is sure to bring additional plaudits. No doubt, readers and listeners will find it well worth the decade long wait since Ms. Tartt's superlative debut novel. When asked why it took her ten years to write "The Little Friend," the author replied in part, "There's an expectation these days that novels - like any other consumer product - should be made on a production line, with one dropping from the conveyor belt every couple of years. But it's for every writer to decide his own pace, and the pace varies with the writer and the work.......When I was young, I was deeply struck by a piece of advice that John Gardner gave to beginning writers: ‘Write as if you have all eternity.' This is the last thing a publisher or an agent or an accountant would tell you, but it's the best advice in the world if you want to write beautiful, well-made books. And that's what I want to do. I'd rather write one good book than ten mediocre ones."
It would seem that Ms. Tartt is incapable of penning even a mediocre phrase, as her latest story attests - it is compelling, and memorable.
Nine-year-old Robin Cleve Dufresnes is found dead, hanging from a tupelo tree in his family's yard. Harriet was a mere baby when her brother's body was discovered, and his killer has never been found.
The boy's death virtually destroyed his mother who has turned inward and become a recluse; his father disappeared from the community where this tragedy occurred.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising 10 Nov 2009
By bkkmei
Format:Paperback
Be aware: this isn't The Secret History.

But it is a very evocative book that reminded me simultaneously of To Kill a Mockingbird (a story told from a child's point of view) and Fargo (farcial criminals).

Twelve year old Harriet, fierce and determined, sets out to find the murderer of her older brother who died when she was a baby. Latching on to snippets of information, she sets her sights on Danny, a drugged-up-to-the-eyeballs criminal. Following him, haunting him, she can't see the consequences of her impulsive actions.

It's a self-indulgently long book, yet I couldn't stop reading it. The characters are richly individual. The setting of Mississippi was interesting - for a while I had a hard time figuring out the time period of the book. But what was particularly evocative for me was the long summer holiday - hot seemingly endless days, not much to do, kids looking for excitement...

Don't expect non-stop thrills, or an enthralling plot-line. It's a slow-burn, a twisting journey, beautifully written. I'm happy to have read it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Biggest Disappointment of my Life 3 Jun 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Having relished every page of The Secret History, it was a painful 10 year wait for Tartt's follow up. Having got hold of my copy on the day of its release, I prepared to "enter in to the sublime". If only.
Tartt's sun bleached southern landscape, and unengaging characters were in such stark contract to the freshness and originality of her debut novel, I struggled to believe I was reading the same author. From the farcical redneck "bad guys", to the black stereotypes and wet family members, there seemed to be no single character in this entire story whom I wanted to know any better.
While the length of the Secret History made it like spending a long weekend with a dear friend, the Little Friend was more like a dull house guest who had overstayed its welcome. I couldn't find any strand of this story line interesting enough to cling too as I waded through it. While the quality of Tartt's prose is still a pleasure to read, it wasn't enough to bring life to this otherwise crashing bore of story.
If your curiosity really does get the better of you, please don't pay full price for this book. You'll regret it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A real buttock-clencher
Terrific read. Probably the book by Donna Tartt I like best. Beautifully written. Fabulous thriller that just gets more and more terrifying and mesmerising.
Published 3 days ago by GB Dobosz
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top novels
Absorbing, profound, funny and moving. Donna Tartt paints characters perfectly with traits that we can all recall in someone or ourselves. Read more
Published 12 days ago by D Webster
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance and Frustration
I have mixed feelings about this book. At times it was brilliant, at times it was a bit dull and I struggled to keep my mind on it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Christabelle
5.0 out of 5 stars I was intrigued from the start
excellent book, suspense, intrigue, beautiful writing. Difficult to put down, and even people with a busy schedule will find time for it
Published 1 month ago by jane k adamson
4.0 out of 5 stars a high quality read
A good book. The writing style is very good. From the reviews on here it is clearly not to everyone's taste but if you are looking for a good book by someone who is not just... Read more
Published 1 month ago by tiredoldgit
2.0 out of 5 stars Did the author lose interest?
The quality of writing in this book is superb; I think it was this which kept me reading it. The story lurches from one excellent scene to another with PAGES of unnecessary... Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. M. Lomas
2.0 out of 5 stars trite and very heavy going
I plowed through this supposed masterpiece I found it trite and over sentimental an interesting topic but the style leaves a lot to be desired
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars My least favourite book ever
I liked the characters in the book, I liked the setting but I honestly wanted to give up on this book, but once I have started a book I have to finish no matter what
At the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by D
4.0 out of 5 stars Holiday reading
This novel made for an excellent read on my recent holiday, being well written and full of unexpected plot twists, as well as being a good thick volume
Published 2 months ago by Ann Cameron
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
I rate this lowly because it is not the sort of read that I enjoy. It is definitely not crime fiction. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bronstein
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