My husband recommended this to me and at first I was reluctant - that was around two years ago. I read it first of all quite quickly because it was simply gripping, but have read it twice since. Every time I discover more - I am in awe of Donna Tarrt's ability to make her characters so real and to evoke their surroundings. The chapter where Richard is alone and homeless in Hampden during winter made me shiver! None of Richard's friends are particularly likeable, and yet all had redeeming features and I still cared about them. I indentified with Richard's insecurity, hopeless parents and his wish to be liked and included. The writing style is so tight and professional that it is a pleasure and inspiration to an aspiring writer. I keep this book by my bed and at least two or three times a week open it at random and just read a page or two, drinking in the intelligent, evocative text. This must be included in my top five books ever - give it a chance and you will not regret it.