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The Little Friend [Paperback]

Donna Tartt
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
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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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The Little Friend + The Secret History + The Goldfinch
Price For All Three: £16.43

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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: 13.1 x 3.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,024 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.


‘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
114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternates between gripping and slow 26 Oct 2002
By A Customer
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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21 of 22 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising 10 Nov 2009
By bkkmei
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, vivid, unputdownable 11 Aug 2004
Excellent. The characters, the town, the society, are depicted beautifully, the whole atmosphere "breathes", you feel the heat, you share the characters'feelings, you have to laugh with the incredible squalor and horror of the Ratliff family, you have to love little Hely who is so much "inferior" to the nightmarish little girl, Harriet. I was steeped in the story, the marvellous writing.
BUT the Bloomsbury paper back edition I read, had very small print,as a result I had to read the whole book using a magnifying lense! Isn't there any hardcover with decent print left?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
Unbelieveably good with leitmotifs and astounding psychology that takes the breath away. The Little Friend - dare I say it - blends together a few genres to create a compelling... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Dan Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommend
Classic Donna Tartt.
Published 5 days ago by p welch
4.0 out of 5 stars A skill for slow suspense
This was the first Donna Tartt book I read and there was something about it that held me. You can imagine it being filmed for the telly; dusty streets, twitching net curtains,... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Elaine I
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious
Not up to the standard of her other books. Have been very bored by a lot of it.
Published 19 days ago by June Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As brilliant as the Goldfinch
Published 25 days ago by Susan Webber
4.0 out of 5 stars Donna Tart wins again!
Donna Tart is cracking good read!
Published 26 days ago by S. Kettleborough
4.0 out of 5 stars I found the book hugely enjoyable but felt cheated when any kind of...
Forgot to write last chapter?
Published 27 days ago by Evening
5.0 out of 5 stars A long and enjoyable read
I read The Goldfinch before I read this. It's every bit as absorbing as her latest book, and gives such a clear picture of life in that part of America, and of the way the family... Read more
Published 1 month ago by FlorenceLB
4.0 out of 5 stars Kindle bargain buy.
Bought this for my kindle as the hardback version is 5 cms thick and very heavy.
We were reading it for our village book group, so I was informed by another member that it was... Read more
Published 1 month ago by paddi
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing second book
I thoroughly enjoyed Donna Tart's other books - The Secret History and The Goldfinch - but I just couldn't get into this one and in the edn I gave up.
Published 1 month ago by Fisherman
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