The Little Friend: 21 Great Bloomsbury Reads for the 21st Century (21st Birthday Celebratory Edn) Paperback – 2 Jan 2007
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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 the Hardcover edition.
'Everything you could possibly want in a novel: vivid characterisation, brilliant observation, sly wit and an ingenious, gripping plot' Mail on Sunday 'Beautifully measured prose that sets the scene draws us into the extraordinary story that lingers long in the mind' Observer 'It's the kind of book that wraps you up in its pages and takes you to another place Unputdownable' Daily Mirror 'Once gripped, one gallops through this novel as through a volume of Dickens or Tolstoy, drawn towards the great final set-piece as though by a magnet' Sunday TelegraphSee all Product description
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on 15 July 2017
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
You are immersed in this hot sad world of a family lost in the past where a young child has to make her own way and meaning. I enjoyed reading this book although it felt overlong in places. Hence the four stars. It resonates and I long for a sequel. I am left with an echo of to kill a hummingbird. That the instances in the book will fade into family history seemingly clear but full of hidden facts.
on 28 September 2017
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I bought this having loved The Goldfinch and The Secret History; sadly I didn't really enjoy it and found it a struggle to finish. Perhaps just my personal taste but I didn't really like any of the characters and therefore found it difficult to engage with the story.
on 18 July 2016
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Hugely disappointing. Abrupt ending and needed a good edit to bring it down to a sensible length. I did not need a description of every blade of grass! Could have been a good story but too many red herrings and loose endings.
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Most recent customer reviews
Ordered this and it arrived quite late and with a different cover. Really wanted the cover listed as it would compliment my Secret History. Am somewhat annoyed.
Overwritten, I am amazed this is a best seller! Verbose with dreary pages and characters I didn't believe in- I struggled to get half way in this book before giving up as I...Read more
This novel is the literary equivalent of taking the scenic route when you could have driven along the motorway.Read more
“It was the last picture they had of him. Out of focus. Flat expanse of green cut at a slight diagonal, with a white rail and the heaving gloss of a gardenia bush sharp in the...Read more
I have enjoyed every book she has written. Do read it. A who-done it and a child search for a killer. Read her other books she has a unique way of writing.