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The second novel by Donna Tartt,  bestselling author of The Goldfinch (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize),  The Little Friend  is a grandly ambitious and utterly riveting novel of childhood, innocence and evil.


The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it is that Robin’s sister Harriet—unnervingly bright, insufferably determined, and unduly influenced by the fiction of Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson--sets out to unmask his killer. Aided only by her worshipful friend Hely, Harriet crosses her town’s rigid lines of race and caste and burrows deep into her family’s history of loss. Filled with hairpin turns of plot and “a bustling, ridiculous humanity worthy of Dickens” (The New York Times Book Review), The Little Friend is a work of myriad enchantments by a writer of prodigious talent.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780307873484
List price: $12.99
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Inevitably,The Little Friend, Tartt's second novel have had a hard time living up to her first one, the juggernaut that is [The Secret History], and when all is said and done, it kind of doesn't.This isn’t to say that it’s bad, by any means. The Little Friend is well-crafted, and gripping with a southern gothic feel of old glory and slow decay that you can't help yourself getting drawn into. The gallery of characters is rich and diversified and together with the suggestive and vivid descriptions of the town and almost gives the whole thing the feel of a collective novel.The plot has that same kind of slow buildup towards an inevitable crescendo, like an oncoming thunderstorm, that made [The Secret History] so excruciatingly good, but this time its unfortunately feels a bit directionless - events plod along, but with no real sense of connection between them, which is both fascinating in a way, but also distracting. The final act, while not exactly underwhelming, at the end falls a bit flat and I, at least, never got any real sense of closure of payoff. Many of the characters arcs where really understated and subtle, and while I understand that this was probably the point it didn't quite mesh with the grand scale of the main plot. In the end, very little got resolved, no mysteries where solved, and nothing really had changed.It’s worth reading if you’re into southern gothic, of if you really liked The Little Friend> (and frankly, who didn’t?)more
I just couldn't stick with this at allmore
Okay. Maybe I should have read the reviews before attempting this. Everyone, whether they loved or hated it, describes the book as slow and descriptive. Which is fine. Except for audio books that you need to hold your attention. I couldn't listen to this for more than 5- 10 minutes at a time. I'm not going to give up on Tartt yet, I still want to read her other book.more
It took me a long time to finish "The Little Friend"; although some parts could have been a little less detailed it was worth it. The book doesn't give you all the answers, but that's how life is. In some cases you will never know what really happened. At some times you really feel sorry for Harriet and you wonder where she finds the strength to carry on.more
A 12-year-old detective would not be that unusual in a children's book, but "The Little Friend" by Donna Tartt is a book intended for adults.Nine-year-old Robin Dufresnes is murdered in his own yard in Alexandria, Miss., hung from a tree in the presence of his two little sisters, 4-year-old Allison and the infant Harriet. Neither child can tell what happened, and the mystery remains unsolved. Years later Harriet, urged in church to set a goal for the summer, decides to find out who killed her brother.She settles on one of the Ratliff boys who was in Robin's class at school. The four Ratliffs come from a family of lower-class ne'er-do-wells. Farish and Danny deal drugs. Eugene fancies himself a snake-handling preacher. The fourth brother is retarded. Harriet decides that Danny killed her brother and wants to see justice done by killing Danny.Most of the novel, which in paperback is more than 600 pages long, seems to have little to do with Robin's murder. This may try the patience of those looking for a traditional murder mystery, but I found the story of a family still broken apart by tragedy to be utterly fascinating.When Harriet confronts the Ratliffs in a series of dangerous adventures with narrow escapes, no reader will be disappointed. This is terrific stuff.Those expecting a clear resolution of the mystery — who did kill Robin Dufresnes? — won't find it here. Harriet, for all her intelligence, nerve and determination, is still a 12-year-old. Readers may see clues in the story that go over Harriet's head entirely."The Little Friend" is a good murder mystery, but it is an even better coming-of-age story. Harriet learns invaluable lessons, such as that playing God can be dangerous because, not actually being God, it is too easy to make mistakes. She is left with the unsettling conviction that she may have been wrong about Danny Ratliff.In a delicious irony at the end we see that her friend Hely, who has all but worshipped Harriet throughout the story, is more convinced than ever that she is a genius. Harriet herself knows better.more
The Cleves are Old Money. Now the money is gone and the family estate sold, but the family, led by a quartet of old sisters, still hold a high social status is County Alexandria, Mississippi. Only really, things haven’t been right for a long time. Twelve years ago Charlotte’s nine year old son Robin was murdered, hung from a tree branch is his own garden, and the culprit was never found. Now thirteen year old Harriet, a tough strange kid, lives in the shadow of her dead sibling. Her sister is etheric, her mum is a complete wreck ever since that horrid day and hardly leaves her bed. Harriet’s security is the four old ladies, and above all the housemaid Ida, as close to a real mother as she’s ever had. But when Harriet stumbles over who the murderer might be, she is bent on revenge, of the real kind. Her friend Hely might think it an exciting game, but for Harriet this is no joke. The enemies she’s going up against are the most dangerous around, and step by step she’s getting closer to lines that can’t be un-crossed again.There’s a lot to like in this brick. The characters are colorful, and Tartt’s painting in fading hues of a Mississippi a few decades ago, full of everyday racism, poverty and abandoned property is vivid. I also like how she gradually lets games and phantasies become real and threatening, how careless words get real and tragic consequences and how Hely’s naivety goes from being annoying to really dangerous. But there’s still something about this book that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s like it kicks in too late, and spend too much time fumbling for some sort of core. It’s only the last 200 pages or so it becomes the page turner “The secret history” was, and even then it falls into some dumb Enid Blyton-esque traps. I have a hunch this could have been a much better book. There are sparkles of greatness in here.more
I am a sucker for books set in the American South. Stories with sweet tea and back porches feel like home. That's why I was eager to read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. Set in Mississippi, The Little Friend seemed to be the perfect book with all the right ingredients; however, by the midway point of this novel, I knew I was knee deep in a clunker.The edition of The Little Friend that I read was more than 600 pages, and in my opinion, it could have been half that length. The beginning of the book starts out promising. Tartt introduces us to Harriet, a precocious girl who has a strong spirit.  We meet her mother, sister and a gaggle of great aunts - all of whom were interesting characters. We also meet Hely (pronounced Healy), who is Harriet's best friend and partner in crime. Quickly, we see that Harriet wants to learn more about the strange and sudden death of her older brother, and she sets her sights on a local man as a possible murder suspect.Three hundred pages later, we're no further along in the plot then we were in the first chapter. Tartt's tangents were pleasant at first, but by the middle of the book, I wanted to get on with the story.Finally, Tartt delivers us the inevitable "stand-off," and perhaps I was exhausted or bored or impatient - but the whole ending seemed too far-fetched. After a 600-page investment, I wanted something in return. Sadly, I was disappointed.On the plus side, though, I commend Tartt for her vivid writing style. Her sentences were beautiful, and she eloquently depicted her characters and setting. It's a shame that the beauty of her writing got lost in a tangled yarn.Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2003, The Little Friend has received many accolades, so please be sure to consult other reviews. This just wasn't the book for me.more
An over thought, overwrought second novel. After the crisp and breathless pacing of The Secret History, the languor and longeurs of this book are a big disappointment. Tartt tries, and fails, to make up for the near total lack of incident with a surfeit of largely pointless description.more
Tartt starts this novel in a very similar way to The Secret History, with a matter-of-fact reference to a murder. "For the rest of her life," it begins, "Charlotte Cleve would blame herself for her son's death because she had decided to have the Mother's Day dinner at six in the evening rather than noon, after church, which is when the Cleves usually had it."But this novel is not directly about a murder. It is about the effect that the murder has on the dead boy's family, and especially on his sister Harriet, who was less than a year old when he died, and is 12 when the novel begins. It is through Harriet's desire to come to terms with the past and find her brother's killer that Tartt paints her vision of family life in the American South.The whole book, the entire portrait of a troubled family and all its relationships, stems from the unsolved murder of one young boy.Because of Tartt's mastery of suspense, this book will grip most readers all the way through to its bitter end. But as you reach the last page, you may well feel a sense of relief. Although this is a large novel.more
This book contains some excellent writing, but doesn't quite it as an excellent book. The story is told from the perspective of 12 year old Harriet, whose elder brother died (was murdered?) some 11 years earlier. Harriet's quirky character is very well drawn, and her childish approach to problems and problem solving is true to life. Her family, the now poor descendants of a once wealthy southern US family, are also convincingly drawn. The bad guys, the drug dealing low-life Ratliffe family, are depicted with wonderfully excruciating candour - every hit of amphetamine, every bout of paranoia, every failure to take up an opportunity in life.But the book fall a little short in narrative structure. The prologue paints a nice picture of a family history that grows and changes by retelling at family functions, only for there to be no more family functions or retelling over the next 600 pages. The central issue in the plot, who killed the brother, is not resolved at the end of the tale. The character of a young Odum girl from one of the low-life families who appears to be trying to rise from the mire is introduced, the appears once or twice more, but is never developed.This is a good book that with a little more attention to plot development could have been a great book.more
This was an excellent book that propelled me into The secret history. Unfortunately, I read it a long time ago and did remember the details of the book but that I liked it enough to give it 4 starts.more
"The Little Friend" takes place in the heart of Faulkner country, but it's not Faulkner, and it doesn't aspire to the grand old man, either. Sure, some elements seem familiar: the Civil War (or, if you prefer, the War Between the States) still lingers, as do the effects of an unspeakable crime. Blacks and whites live cheek-by-jowl without much comprehending each other, and many characters seem to spend their days ruminating on the past. Still,Tartt forgoes Faulkner's flowing, sometimes oppressively sensuous prose for he own crisp, intricate, meticulously descriptive style. Tartt, whose body of work isn't particularly extensive, just might be the rarest of creatures: a perfectionist whose efforts pay off handsomely. "The Little Friend" is six hundred pages long, but every piece is in place; Tartt doesn't so much as waste a word or fudge a detail. You don't so much read her intricate, carefully crafted sentences as much as burrow through them, but reading her prose can be an immensely satisfying experience. Her literary world, set in Alexandria, Mississippi of the seventies, is completely imagined, and she isn't afraid to describe her characters head-on for pages at a time, a high-wire act few writers would have the confidence to attempt. Prospective readers should be warned, however, Tartt leaves a number of plot storylines frustratingly unresolved. I suspect, too, that she's a writer more concerned with sentences than with whole novels and more interested in providing an accurate picture of a certain time and place than with just wrapping up a good yarn. Harriet, the protagonist of "The Little Friend," will likely remind readers of the work of another Southern author: Harper Lee. And there is a lot of Scout Finch in her: she's a tomboy, precociously intelligent, and eager to understand the world of adults. Still, "The Little Friend" has little of the reassuring sense of home that, I suspect, brings so many readers back to "To Kill a Mockingbird." Harriet has been all but abandoned by her parents and is being raised by a collection of aging great-aunts. It's not enough parental guidance to get by on, since the world she lives in, caught someplace between rapidly disappearing Old South traditions and ascendent twentieth-century mass culture, is a place of real danger. I don't want to give too much away, although most readers will find Harriet memorable and sympathetic, I get the feeling that the "Little Friend" named in the title isn't so much a character but a characteristic that I can't remember seeing in Scout: a genuine capacity for evil. It seems that the literary South is still a perilous, haunted place.more
As always, lushly written and with some great hard-hearted venom-blooded gristle, but, in a way, THE LITTLE FRIEND isn't quite as streamlined as THE SECRET HISTORY, and - as a result - suffers a bit. When she's successful, Tartt can be absolutely wonderful: she has a beautiful, poetic ear for prose, and an artist's eye for detail; she's phenomenal at etching out the small gestures and tics of friendships and enmities; and, when she hits her groove, she builds the walls of a scene up and over your head, encasing you completely in her own tightly-controlled world. But here? Without the iron skeleton of a conventional thriller girding her prose, she dips into indulgence, and sometimes skids off her mark. Her gorgeous, decadent Southern-gothic prose can get a little purple and overripe, her meticulousness can clog the narrative's arteries, and, over all, the little cul-de-sacs and dips of her plot can seem, well, a little aimless. THE LITTLE FRIEND is hugely weighty, topping about 500 pages. And, frankly, not all those pages are necessary. Tartt's gilded the lily, and eh, you know. Shed a hundo or so pages, and you'd be in business, I figure.more
Massively anticipated I am sure by everyone who enjoyed A Secret History. And it took such a long time to come along! The first few pages - well, until the character of Harriet was introduced, really - were pretty hard going. I had to read them several times just to work out what was going on. Perseverance paid off and I did get into it in the end, though I still got stuck from time to time and found myself having to re-read.Tartt is great at creating characters, she lays on layers and layers of information, and her prose is magical. The oily landlord is a hoot, and the aunts are well differentiated even if they add less than one would expect to the actual plot.Can the ending be forgiven? Not sure. It's not dissimilar to The Magus (which I thought was acceptable) and Cold Comfort Farm (which wasn't). All in all, if you like great writing it was worth the journey even if the destination disappoints. And the gag about the butterfly coccoon was absolutely priceless.more
Like ' the secret history' , this is a story with a phenomenal story line, with a beautiful slow build-up of tension, to the point where everything comes together in the last pages of the book.more
Harriet is a twelve year old determined to avenge her brother Robin's death. Robin died when Harriet was a baby and the culprit has never been found. This is the only topic of the past not discussed by Harriet's grandmother and great aunts. This novel weaves together Harriet's adventures and that of the Ratliffe clan, a doddering grandmother and her grandsons: an evangelist Christian, two speed freaks and a retarded teenager. Harriet is strongly influenced by her romantic reading, The Jungle Book and Captain Scott's last voyage are often used by Harriet as reference points in her quest. Against the lush Mississippi backdrop Tartt explores how unresolved grief can destroy the bonds of family. The characters in this novel are multi-dimensional and contrast strongly with one another. Sometimes the rich, visual metaphors of this novel are as oppressive as the heat, snakes and foliage of Tartt's Mississippi.The little friend engaged my emotions, but it was not an easy engagement, the images that Tartt realised will stay in my thoughts for a long time.more
I was fairly disappointed in this novel, particularly because I enjoyed Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, so much. The book opens with the horrific murder of a little boy in his own front yard, then picks up 12 years later, following his younger sister through a summer in a small Mississippi town. Despite some really interesting scenes – all of them involving gruesome encounters with snakes, coincidentally enough – the story never really finds its center, and the ending is both abrupt and unsatisfying.more
In a nutshell The Little Friend is about Harriet Cleve Dufresnes, a twelve-year-old girl who decides she simply must solve the mystery of who killed her nine-year-old brother when she was just an infant. All Harriet knows of the incident is that little Robin was found hung from a tree on Mother's Day and nobody knew why. During her attempts to solve the mystery Harriet and her sidekick Hely get themselves into troubles far more adult than their years. Larger Mississippi-southern issues such as poverty and prejudice encircle more complicated crimes such as deception, drugs, and death.more
A powerful story about a young girl trying to find out why her brother was murdered. As she probes her memory for clues, she tries to piece together what happened....with disastrous results.more
i had great expectations after reading "Secret history " which is Donna Tartt's first book ( i think ) but i' m disappointed. The beginning is great and story develops very well but that's it. After one point it seems that nothing is happening and you keep reading and reading. I like that the story is based on mystery but in second part of the book that mystery ( unresolved death of a young boy ) is mentioned very rarely and in the end nothing is resolved. It's written very good but storyplot could be better.more
The Little Friend doesn't seem to have attracted as much positive critical acclaim as Tartt's The Secret History, but it contains the same elements that made the latter a success: absorbing, vividly painted characters, a slow moving but tightly crafted plot, and archetypal timeless American settings. Harriet has been raised largely by her grandmother and great aunts while her mother gracefully slips into a drug induced haze brought on by the death of Harriet's brother when she was a baby. 12 years later, Harriet resolves to solve the mystery of his death, and becomes caught up in the small town criminal underworld of the deep south. Harriet does a good job of portraying Harriet's rather intense worldview, but I was more taken with the other characters, Harriet's grandmother and aunts, and the criminal dregs of Ratcliff family. I didn't feel Tartt's leisurely pacing in describing their thoughts and feelings fit well with the murder mystery story of Harriet's quest, and I suspect this may be one of the causes of other readers' dissatisfaction with the book: the slow plot makes the book hard going if you're not interested in the minor characters. The resolution is also a little ambiguous: I'm fairly sure I see what happened to Harriet's brother, but reading online it seems many readers disagree! There are also elements I don't quite understand - I really don't see the significance of Harriet's sister, for example.For me, The Little Friend is worth reading as a social commentary. The casual racism and petty-mindedness could make for a depressing read, but as with The Secret History somehow Tartt succeeds in leaving the reader uplifted.more
This book started off with great promise. A young nine-year old boy, found dead hanging from a tree. Trail going cold, and nobody being able to explain exactly what happened that day. Twelve years later, his sister aims to find out the truth.However, thats where it stays. And stays. And even by the end of the book, it hasn't really been resolved. The book is very well-written, and has some beautiful prose, and great descriptions, but it is also quite frustrating as it doesn't really go anywhere. Towards the end, the story picks up and gets a bit more exciting and thrilling, so it is worth reading, as long as you can resign yourself to never knowing the truth...more
This wasn't what I thought it would be - I was expecting a murder mystery suspense but in fact it was more of a study of childhood and character with little plot to speak of. Nothing wrong with that as such - it was very well written and the characters were good, but lordy I found it depressing! And the ending was really unsatisfactory. Although I was caught up in it, it was not a happy reading experience.more
Too long and I didn't get it.more
Strange book. Almost boring. 'When will something happen?!'Very disappointed. Finished it, but don't ask me how long it took me.more
Same problem as Paint it black - too many words, not enough story. I didn't enjoy it, although it is well written, the story ends abruptly. Left me dissatisfied.more
I'm not sure what to say about this one . . . part mystery, part horror story, part southern gothic . . . don't judge the book by its cover, though, the cover picture is terrible.more
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Reviews

Inevitably,The Little Friend, Tartt's second novel have had a hard time living up to her first one, the juggernaut that is [The Secret History], and when all is said and done, it kind of doesn't.This isn’t to say that it’s bad, by any means. The Little Friend is well-crafted, and gripping with a southern gothic feel of old glory and slow decay that you can't help yourself getting drawn into. The gallery of characters is rich and diversified and together with the suggestive and vivid descriptions of the town and almost gives the whole thing the feel of a collective novel.The plot has that same kind of slow buildup towards an inevitable crescendo, like an oncoming thunderstorm, that made [The Secret History] so excruciatingly good, but this time its unfortunately feels a bit directionless - events plod along, but with no real sense of connection between them, which is both fascinating in a way, but also distracting. The final act, while not exactly underwhelming, at the end falls a bit flat and I, at least, never got any real sense of closure of payoff. Many of the characters arcs where really understated and subtle, and while I understand that this was probably the point it didn't quite mesh with the grand scale of the main plot. In the end, very little got resolved, no mysteries where solved, and nothing really had changed.It’s worth reading if you’re into southern gothic, of if you really liked The Little Friend> (and frankly, who didn’t?)more
I just couldn't stick with this at allmore
Okay. Maybe I should have read the reviews before attempting this. Everyone, whether they loved or hated it, describes the book as slow and descriptive. Which is fine. Except for audio books that you need to hold your attention. I couldn't listen to this for more than 5- 10 minutes at a time. I'm not going to give up on Tartt yet, I still want to read her other book.more
It took me a long time to finish "The Little Friend"; although some parts could have been a little less detailed it was worth it. The book doesn't give you all the answers, but that's how life is. In some cases you will never know what really happened. At some times you really feel sorry for Harriet and you wonder where she finds the strength to carry on.more
A 12-year-old detective would not be that unusual in a children's book, but "The Little Friend" by Donna Tartt is a book intended for adults.Nine-year-old Robin Dufresnes is murdered in his own yard in Alexandria, Miss., hung from a tree in the presence of his two little sisters, 4-year-old Allison and the infant Harriet. Neither child can tell what happened, and the mystery remains unsolved. Years later Harriet, urged in church to set a goal for the summer, decides to find out who killed her brother.She settles on one of the Ratliff boys who was in Robin's class at school. The four Ratliffs come from a family of lower-class ne'er-do-wells. Farish and Danny deal drugs. Eugene fancies himself a snake-handling preacher. The fourth brother is retarded. Harriet decides that Danny killed her brother and wants to see justice done by killing Danny.Most of the novel, which in paperback is more than 600 pages long, seems to have little to do with Robin's murder. This may try the patience of those looking for a traditional murder mystery, but I found the story of a family still broken apart by tragedy to be utterly fascinating.When Harriet confronts the Ratliffs in a series of dangerous adventures with narrow escapes, no reader will be disappointed. This is terrific stuff.Those expecting a clear resolution of the mystery — who did kill Robin Dufresnes? — won't find it here. Harriet, for all her intelligence, nerve and determination, is still a 12-year-old. Readers may see clues in the story that go over Harriet's head entirely."The Little Friend" is a good murder mystery, but it is an even better coming-of-age story. Harriet learns invaluable lessons, such as that playing God can be dangerous because, not actually being God, it is too easy to make mistakes. She is left with the unsettling conviction that she may have been wrong about Danny Ratliff.In a delicious irony at the end we see that her friend Hely, who has all but worshipped Harriet throughout the story, is more convinced than ever that she is a genius. Harriet herself knows better.more
The Cleves are Old Money. Now the money is gone and the family estate sold, but the family, led by a quartet of old sisters, still hold a high social status is County Alexandria, Mississippi. Only really, things haven’t been right for a long time. Twelve years ago Charlotte’s nine year old son Robin was murdered, hung from a tree branch is his own garden, and the culprit was never found. Now thirteen year old Harriet, a tough strange kid, lives in the shadow of her dead sibling. Her sister is etheric, her mum is a complete wreck ever since that horrid day and hardly leaves her bed. Harriet’s security is the four old ladies, and above all the housemaid Ida, as close to a real mother as she’s ever had. But when Harriet stumbles over who the murderer might be, she is bent on revenge, of the real kind. Her friend Hely might think it an exciting game, but for Harriet this is no joke. The enemies she’s going up against are the most dangerous around, and step by step she’s getting closer to lines that can’t be un-crossed again.There’s a lot to like in this brick. The characters are colorful, and Tartt’s painting in fading hues of a Mississippi a few decades ago, full of everyday racism, poverty and abandoned property is vivid. I also like how she gradually lets games and phantasies become real and threatening, how careless words get real and tragic consequences and how Hely’s naivety goes from being annoying to really dangerous. But there’s still something about this book that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s like it kicks in too late, and spend too much time fumbling for some sort of core. It’s only the last 200 pages or so it becomes the page turner “The secret history” was, and even then it falls into some dumb Enid Blyton-esque traps. I have a hunch this could have been a much better book. There are sparkles of greatness in here.more
I am a sucker for books set in the American South. Stories with sweet tea and back porches feel like home. That's why I was eager to read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. Set in Mississippi, The Little Friend seemed to be the perfect book with all the right ingredients; however, by the midway point of this novel, I knew I was knee deep in a clunker.The edition of The Little Friend that I read was more than 600 pages, and in my opinion, it could have been half that length. The beginning of the book starts out promising. Tartt introduces us to Harriet, a precocious girl who has a strong spirit.  We meet her mother, sister and a gaggle of great aunts - all of whom were interesting characters. We also meet Hely (pronounced Healy), who is Harriet's best friend and partner in crime. Quickly, we see that Harriet wants to learn more about the strange and sudden death of her older brother, and she sets her sights on a local man as a possible murder suspect.Three hundred pages later, we're no further along in the plot then we were in the first chapter. Tartt's tangents were pleasant at first, but by the middle of the book, I wanted to get on with the story.Finally, Tartt delivers us the inevitable "stand-off," and perhaps I was exhausted or bored or impatient - but the whole ending seemed too far-fetched. After a 600-page investment, I wanted something in return. Sadly, I was disappointed.On the plus side, though, I commend Tartt for her vivid writing style. Her sentences were beautiful, and she eloquently depicted her characters and setting. It's a shame that the beauty of her writing got lost in a tangled yarn.Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2003, The Little Friend has received many accolades, so please be sure to consult other reviews. This just wasn't the book for me.more
An over thought, overwrought second novel. After the crisp and breathless pacing of The Secret History, the languor and longeurs of this book are a big disappointment. Tartt tries, and fails, to make up for the near total lack of incident with a surfeit of largely pointless description.more
Tartt starts this novel in a very similar way to The Secret History, with a matter-of-fact reference to a murder. "For the rest of her life," it begins, "Charlotte Cleve would blame herself for her son's death because she had decided to have the Mother's Day dinner at six in the evening rather than noon, after church, which is when the Cleves usually had it."But this novel is not directly about a murder. It is about the effect that the murder has on the dead boy's family, and especially on his sister Harriet, who was less than a year old when he died, and is 12 when the novel begins. It is through Harriet's desire to come to terms with the past and find her brother's killer that Tartt paints her vision of family life in the American South.The whole book, the entire portrait of a troubled family and all its relationships, stems from the unsolved murder of one young boy.Because of Tartt's mastery of suspense, this book will grip most readers all the way through to its bitter end. But as you reach the last page, you may well feel a sense of relief. Although this is a large novel.more
This book contains some excellent writing, but doesn't quite it as an excellent book. The story is told from the perspective of 12 year old Harriet, whose elder brother died (was murdered?) some 11 years earlier. Harriet's quirky character is very well drawn, and her childish approach to problems and problem solving is true to life. Her family, the now poor descendants of a once wealthy southern US family, are also convincingly drawn. The bad guys, the drug dealing low-life Ratliffe family, are depicted with wonderfully excruciating candour - every hit of amphetamine, every bout of paranoia, every failure to take up an opportunity in life.But the book fall a little short in narrative structure. The prologue paints a nice picture of a family history that grows and changes by retelling at family functions, only for there to be no more family functions or retelling over the next 600 pages. The central issue in the plot, who killed the brother, is not resolved at the end of the tale. The character of a young Odum girl from one of the low-life families who appears to be trying to rise from the mire is introduced, the appears once or twice more, but is never developed.This is a good book that with a little more attention to plot development could have been a great book.more
This was an excellent book that propelled me into The secret history. Unfortunately, I read it a long time ago and did remember the details of the book but that I liked it enough to give it 4 starts.more
"The Little Friend" takes place in the heart of Faulkner country, but it's not Faulkner, and it doesn't aspire to the grand old man, either. Sure, some elements seem familiar: the Civil War (or, if you prefer, the War Between the States) still lingers, as do the effects of an unspeakable crime. Blacks and whites live cheek-by-jowl without much comprehending each other, and many characters seem to spend their days ruminating on the past. Still,Tartt forgoes Faulkner's flowing, sometimes oppressively sensuous prose for he own crisp, intricate, meticulously descriptive style. Tartt, whose body of work isn't particularly extensive, just might be the rarest of creatures: a perfectionist whose efforts pay off handsomely. "The Little Friend" is six hundred pages long, but every piece is in place; Tartt doesn't so much as waste a word or fudge a detail. You don't so much read her intricate, carefully crafted sentences as much as burrow through them, but reading her prose can be an immensely satisfying experience. Her literary world, set in Alexandria, Mississippi of the seventies, is completely imagined, and she isn't afraid to describe her characters head-on for pages at a time, a high-wire act few writers would have the confidence to attempt. Prospective readers should be warned, however, Tartt leaves a number of plot storylines frustratingly unresolved. I suspect, too, that she's a writer more concerned with sentences than with whole novels and more interested in providing an accurate picture of a certain time and place than with just wrapping up a good yarn. Harriet, the protagonist of "The Little Friend," will likely remind readers of the work of another Southern author: Harper Lee. And there is a lot of Scout Finch in her: she's a tomboy, precociously intelligent, and eager to understand the world of adults. Still, "The Little Friend" has little of the reassuring sense of home that, I suspect, brings so many readers back to "To Kill a Mockingbird." Harriet has been all but abandoned by her parents and is being raised by a collection of aging great-aunts. It's not enough parental guidance to get by on, since the world she lives in, caught someplace between rapidly disappearing Old South traditions and ascendent twentieth-century mass culture, is a place of real danger. I don't want to give too much away, although most readers will find Harriet memorable and sympathetic, I get the feeling that the "Little Friend" named in the title isn't so much a character but a characteristic that I can't remember seeing in Scout: a genuine capacity for evil. It seems that the literary South is still a perilous, haunted place.more
As always, lushly written and with some great hard-hearted venom-blooded gristle, but, in a way, THE LITTLE FRIEND isn't quite as streamlined as THE SECRET HISTORY, and - as a result - suffers a bit. When she's successful, Tartt can be absolutely wonderful: she has a beautiful, poetic ear for prose, and an artist's eye for detail; she's phenomenal at etching out the small gestures and tics of friendships and enmities; and, when she hits her groove, she builds the walls of a scene up and over your head, encasing you completely in her own tightly-controlled world. But here? Without the iron skeleton of a conventional thriller girding her prose, she dips into indulgence, and sometimes skids off her mark. Her gorgeous, decadent Southern-gothic prose can get a little purple and overripe, her meticulousness can clog the narrative's arteries, and, over all, the little cul-de-sacs and dips of her plot can seem, well, a little aimless. THE LITTLE FRIEND is hugely weighty, topping about 500 pages. And, frankly, not all those pages are necessary. Tartt's gilded the lily, and eh, you know. Shed a hundo or so pages, and you'd be in business, I figure.more
Massively anticipated I am sure by everyone who enjoyed A Secret History. And it took such a long time to come along! The first few pages - well, until the character of Harriet was introduced, really - were pretty hard going. I had to read them several times just to work out what was going on. Perseverance paid off and I did get into it in the end, though I still got stuck from time to time and found myself having to re-read.Tartt is great at creating characters, she lays on layers and layers of information, and her prose is magical. The oily landlord is a hoot, and the aunts are well differentiated even if they add less than one would expect to the actual plot.Can the ending be forgiven? Not sure. It's not dissimilar to The Magus (which I thought was acceptable) and Cold Comfort Farm (which wasn't). All in all, if you like great writing it was worth the journey even if the destination disappoints. And the gag about the butterfly coccoon was absolutely priceless.more
Like ' the secret history' , this is a story with a phenomenal story line, with a beautiful slow build-up of tension, to the point where everything comes together in the last pages of the book.more
Harriet is a twelve year old determined to avenge her brother Robin's death. Robin died when Harriet was a baby and the culprit has never been found. This is the only topic of the past not discussed by Harriet's grandmother and great aunts. This novel weaves together Harriet's adventures and that of the Ratliffe clan, a doddering grandmother and her grandsons: an evangelist Christian, two speed freaks and a retarded teenager. Harriet is strongly influenced by her romantic reading, The Jungle Book and Captain Scott's last voyage are often used by Harriet as reference points in her quest. Against the lush Mississippi backdrop Tartt explores how unresolved grief can destroy the bonds of family. The characters in this novel are multi-dimensional and contrast strongly with one another. Sometimes the rich, visual metaphors of this novel are as oppressive as the heat, snakes and foliage of Tartt's Mississippi.The little friend engaged my emotions, but it was not an easy engagement, the images that Tartt realised will stay in my thoughts for a long time.more
I was fairly disappointed in this novel, particularly because I enjoyed Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, so much. The book opens with the horrific murder of a little boy in his own front yard, then picks up 12 years later, following his younger sister through a summer in a small Mississippi town. Despite some really interesting scenes – all of them involving gruesome encounters with snakes, coincidentally enough – the story never really finds its center, and the ending is both abrupt and unsatisfying.more
In a nutshell The Little Friend is about Harriet Cleve Dufresnes, a twelve-year-old girl who decides she simply must solve the mystery of who killed her nine-year-old brother when she was just an infant. All Harriet knows of the incident is that little Robin was found hung from a tree on Mother's Day and nobody knew why. During her attempts to solve the mystery Harriet and her sidekick Hely get themselves into troubles far more adult than their years. Larger Mississippi-southern issues such as poverty and prejudice encircle more complicated crimes such as deception, drugs, and death.more
A powerful story about a young girl trying to find out why her brother was murdered. As she probes her memory for clues, she tries to piece together what happened....with disastrous results.more
i had great expectations after reading "Secret history " which is Donna Tartt's first book ( i think ) but i' m disappointed. The beginning is great and story develops very well but that's it. After one point it seems that nothing is happening and you keep reading and reading. I like that the story is based on mystery but in second part of the book that mystery ( unresolved death of a young boy ) is mentioned very rarely and in the end nothing is resolved. It's written very good but storyplot could be better.more
The Little Friend doesn't seem to have attracted as much positive critical acclaim as Tartt's The Secret History, but it contains the same elements that made the latter a success: absorbing, vividly painted characters, a slow moving but tightly crafted plot, and archetypal timeless American settings. Harriet has been raised largely by her grandmother and great aunts while her mother gracefully slips into a drug induced haze brought on by the death of Harriet's brother when she was a baby. 12 years later, Harriet resolves to solve the mystery of his death, and becomes caught up in the small town criminal underworld of the deep south. Harriet does a good job of portraying Harriet's rather intense worldview, but I was more taken with the other characters, Harriet's grandmother and aunts, and the criminal dregs of Ratcliff family. I didn't feel Tartt's leisurely pacing in describing their thoughts and feelings fit well with the murder mystery story of Harriet's quest, and I suspect this may be one of the causes of other readers' dissatisfaction with the book: the slow plot makes the book hard going if you're not interested in the minor characters. The resolution is also a little ambiguous: I'm fairly sure I see what happened to Harriet's brother, but reading online it seems many readers disagree! There are also elements I don't quite understand - I really don't see the significance of Harriet's sister, for example.For me, The Little Friend is worth reading as a social commentary. The casual racism and petty-mindedness could make for a depressing read, but as with The Secret History somehow Tartt succeeds in leaving the reader uplifted.more
This book started off with great promise. A young nine-year old boy, found dead hanging from a tree. Trail going cold, and nobody being able to explain exactly what happened that day. Twelve years later, his sister aims to find out the truth.However, thats where it stays. And stays. And even by the end of the book, it hasn't really been resolved. The book is very well-written, and has some beautiful prose, and great descriptions, but it is also quite frustrating as it doesn't really go anywhere. Towards the end, the story picks up and gets a bit more exciting and thrilling, so it is worth reading, as long as you can resign yourself to never knowing the truth...more
This wasn't what I thought it would be - I was expecting a murder mystery suspense but in fact it was more of a study of childhood and character with little plot to speak of. Nothing wrong with that as such - it was very well written and the characters were good, but lordy I found it depressing! And the ending was really unsatisfactory. Although I was caught up in it, it was not a happy reading experience.more
Too long and I didn't get it.more
Strange book. Almost boring. 'When will something happen?!'Very disappointed. Finished it, but don't ask me how long it took me.more
Same problem as Paint it black - too many words, not enough story. I didn't enjoy it, although it is well written, the story ends abruptly. Left me dissatisfied.more
I'm not sure what to say about this one . . . part mystery, part horror story, part southern gothic . . . don't judge the book by its cover, though, the cover picture is terrible.more
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