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Customer reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
The Little Friend
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 15 July 2017
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.
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on 28 September 2017
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.
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on 18 July 2016
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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on 10 November 2017
Brilliant and recommended by a friend,
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on 7 June 2017
My favourite book
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on 26 July 2017
A great literary thriller; not quite as good as the genius Goldfinch but few if any are and very certainly not to be missed.
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on 24 April 2017
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on 5 November 2017
Give me chance to read it!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 1 March 2017
In a strange way, this book, for me, resembles a sort of inverse curate’s egg. Yes it has some not so good bits, but overall it’s so good that it deserves an excellent rating. To put it another way, this will be about the most qualified 5 star review I’ve ever written.

It tells the story of the Cleve/Dusfresenes family in a small Mississippi town, at a time which it slowly emerges is sometime in the early seventies. In a prologue, set twelve years before the main narrative, Tartt tells of the death of the beloved nine year old Robin, murdered and left hanging from a tree in the family garden.

As the main narrative opens, the Dusfresnes family has disintegrated. Father, Dix, has left home, mother Charlotte is still disconnected from life by her grief, and Robin’s sisters Allison, and Harriet, who was a baby at the time of his death, are left to run free. What adult supervision they receive comes from a matriarchal network with Grandmother at the head of a network of aunts and great aunts, a hive of eccentricity.

The early part of the book is a stunningly beautiful, but exquisitely painful description of the minor tragedies of childhood and the agonies of adolescence. In one particularly poignant and touching moment, Allison runs from the confusing trauma of the first time a boy tries to kiss her, and seeks solace in a bed stuffed with soft toys.

Tartt however, chooses Harriet as her main protagonist, and in a wonderfully concise phrase says “Harriet wasn’t pretty but she was smart”, so giving the reader a clear picture of the little girl who will figure at the centre of what is to come. The central thrust of the novel is Harriet, avoiding being sent to a Baptist Summer Camp decides to revenge Robin’s murder and fixates on the Ratliff family, firmly from the other side of the tracks, as the culprits. In turn, Danny Ratliff, paranoid from protecting the family drugs business and from the effects of taking those drugs becomes aware of Harriet, and not knowing who she is, becomes equally fixated on her. Thus starts a battle of wills which starts as an Enid Blyton-esque story with Harriet and her sidekick Hely setting out to unravel the mystery, but which very rapidly descends into something much, much darker.

This is definitely one of those books where the blurb on the cover misleads. I was expecting a mystery story, with Harriet inspired by Treasure Island and Houdini. What one gets is a thriller in which Treasure Island and Houdini are mentioned in passing, and only the latter has any significant impact on the plot. To get any kind of feel for what the book resembles I would point to two wildly different authors. Harriet, a feisty tomboy in a southern setting could be Scout Finch’s darker second cousin. The gothic criminality brings to mind Particia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta thrillers.

Around the time of the publication of the Goldfinch, I heard an interview with Tartt in which she described the process of writing as being, for her, as being like painter a mural with a nail varnish brush. Her dense and detailed style is very much to the fore here, describing the sun bleached, dust scratched world of the deep south. But from within the detail, the occasional sentence or phrase flashes brilliantly into view. I was particularly taken, at a funeral, by a reference to characters’ “brisk expertise in the protocol of grief”.

Tartt’s other great strength is in character, the Goldfinch gave us the glorious Boris, and here Harriet is a fascinating heroine, a Tartt classic, arguably aspirationally autobiographical as the feisty but bookish little girl. The aunts and great aunts are massively entertaining, and the Ratliff family, while possibly leaning in the direction of stereotype, also look recognisably Trump-ian, even if they are 40 years early.

I am not sure if plotting and narrative are strengths or weaknesses of Tartt’s writing. Certainly the intricacy of her description means that pace is not one of her virtues, but equally, if one has time, it is a pleasure to be able to sink into the depths of her world. Also, her works are unashamedly literary, but her plots verge on the melodramatic. When it comes here to speeding cars, flying snakes and homicidal juniors inadvertently attacking septuagenarians, I did find myself asking “Really?”

As a final note, amidst the intricate imagery and symbolism, I have to say that any books which sees the sympathetic treatment of cats as a metaphor for humanity and vice versa gets my vote.
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on 22 February 2015
I'm astonished at so many negative and lukewarm reviews of this novel. It seems to me to be a quite outstanding achievement, exquisitely written and totally gripping. The attempts to fix it in a narrow genre and then to fault it for falling short of the commonplaces of that genre seem to me absurd. It is not a "whodunit" and no more is it southern gothic, a pretty vague area at best. Rather it is unique, rising above pigeon-holing.

I confess that after so much enjoying "The Secret History", I bypassed "The Little Friend", and moved directly to "The Goldfinch", largely on account of the apparent lack of enthusiasm shown in the reviews. After "The Goldfinch" I found it hard to believe that this author could in between these two fine novels write something of little worth. How right that intuition proved to be. I wonder whether other readers might have been similarly put off, perhaps to the extent of avoiding this novel altogether.

Now, I'm inclined to think it the finest of the three. It has depth, great intelligence and the keenest perception and sensitivity. It also reveals the most generous of human sympathies. Tartt moves apparently effortlessly between the niceties of extended family life to scenes of breath-taking action. It's a wonderful evocation of Mississippi small town life as it is of two dysfunctional, but very different families. Nowhere is there a false note or a trace of sentimentality. I wouldn't have it a page shorter.
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