The Little Friend

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"In a small Mississippi town, Harriet Cleve Dufresnes grows up in the shadow of her brother, who - when she was only a baby - was found hanging dead from a black-tupelo tree in their yard. His killer was never identified, nor has his family, in the years since, recovered from the tragedy." For Harriet, who has grown up largely unsupervised, in a world of her own imagination, her brother is a link to a glorious past she has only heard stories about or glimpsed in photograph albums. Fiercely determined, precocious far beyond her twelve years, and
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Overview

"In a small Mississippi town, Harriet Cleve Dufresnes grows up in the shadow of her brother, who - when she was only a baby - was found hanging dead from a black-tupelo tree in their yard. His killer was never identified, nor has his family, in the years since, recovered from the tragedy." For Harriet, who has grown up largely unsupervised, in a world of her own imagination, her brother is a link to a glorious past she has only heard stories about or glimpsed in photograph albums. Fiercely determined, precocious far beyond her twelve years, and steeped in the adventurous literature of Stevenson, Kipling, and Conan Doyle, she resolves, one summer, to solve the murder and exact her revenge. Harriet's sole ally in this quest, her friend Hely, is devoted to her, but what they soon encounter has nothing to do with child's play: it is dark, adult, and all too menacing.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The Barnes & Noble Review
Ten years after her astonishing debut novel, The Secret History, Donna Tartt's The Little Friend -- an absorbing, beautifully written account of murder and its consequences -- is a successful follow-up that reaffirms Tartt's talent.

The narrative takes place in Mississippi in the late 1970s, but the central event occurs twelve years earlier, when nine-year-old Robin Dufresnes is found hanging from a tree in his own back yard. Robin's murder, which is never solved, virtually destroys his family. Years later, twelve-year-old Harriet Dufresnes -- who was an infant when Robin died and who is haunted by images of the brother she never knew -- sets out to locate his killer.

Harriet's quest becomes a meditation on grief, obsession, and revenge. When Harriet identifies a likely suspect -- Danny Ratliffe, a drug-addled member of an impoverished redneck family -- she pursues him with a remorseless, sometimes appalling, single-mindedness. As the long, leisurely narrative unfolds, Tartt presents a cumulatively compelling portrait of a rural Southern community and of two deeply damaged families -- the Dufresnes and the Ratliffes -- whose destinies become intertwined in unpredictable ways.

Tartt is a natural storyteller and a masterful stylist whose precise, evocative descriptions of people, landscapes, and events are both convincing and hypnotic. At the same time, she displays an uncommon facility for the gothic and macabre, and her novel is filled with horrific, sometimes grotesque flourishes, such as an unforgettable encounter between an elderly woman and a kidnapped king cobra. Alternately dark, funny, sorrowful, and surprising, The Little Friend is a worthy successor to The Secret History. Bill Sheehan

The New York Times Book Review
The Little Friend might be described as a young-adult novel for grown-ups, since it can carry us back to the breathless state of adolescent literary discovery, when we read to be terrified beyond measure and, through our terror, to try to figure out the world and our place in it.
Sven Birkerts
Donna Tartt is a writer who seems to thrive on countering norms and expectations. She published her first novel in 1992, while the ink on her Bennington College diploma was still wet. The Secret History, a heated-up tale of murder and cultism at a very Bennington-like campus, was a publishing phenomenon, gaining an enormous popular success even as it posted respectable scores on the literary charts. Tartt earned instant Brat-pack status, and a whole generation of readers awaited the inevitable cash-in follow-up. Which then, confoundingly, did not and did not come.

Now, at last, a full decade later—and in an entertainment culture like ours, a decade is a lifetime—Tartt delivers The Little Friend, a vast, thickly woven and defyingly unchic work of immersed imagination. The novel is nothing anyone could have predicted.

Most contemporary novelists have forsworn accretions of atmosphere in favor of edgy sketches of the Cultural Now. Not Donna Tartt. Indeed, the first few hundred pages of The Little Friend are almost nothing but background and atmosphere. I mean nothing pejorative—not yet. The dense, steamy mood of a small-town Mississippi summer blends together beautifully with Tartt's extraordinarily patient evocation of the inwardness of twelve-year-old Harriet Cleve.

Gawky, rough-edged, stubborn, afloat in her bookishness and braced against the vast sorrows of family life, Harriet is the least likely of heroines. Yet page by page, as we take in the story of her family's tragedy—the unsolved hanging death of her older brother Robin when she was a very young girl—we grasp the extent of her resilience, that quality that generations agowas known as "pluck." Harriet is the family's one true survivor. Her father has absented himself altogether, working a job in another town; her mother lives in a medicated trance, barely stirring the air as she moves from room to room; and her teenage sister spends most of her time staring into the televisual beyond. There remains only a crew of eccentric aunts, presided over by the formidably peppery Edie, to supply the sustaining vibrations of familial domesticity.

Slowly, the novel gathers its momentum. Her spirit all but annihilated by the despairing inertia that surrounds her, but now feeling the first surges of adult independence, Harriet begins to dream a task, a meaning for herself. One day, impetuously, she inscribes "Goals for Summer" on a fresh page of her notebook. Writes Tartt: "Restlessly, she stared at this. Like the woodcutter's child at the beginning of a fairy tale, a mysterious longing had possessed her, a desire to travel far and do great things; and though she could not say exactly what it was she wanted to do, she knew that it was something grand and gloomy and extremely difficult."

Soon after, Harriet has her realization: Not only was her brother murdered, but she knows who did it. Fixing her suspicions on a former schoolmate of Robin's, one of a network of local ne'er-do-well brothers, she makes it her summer's mission to avenge Robin's death, and to that end enlists her friend Hely, a boy almost as far gone in adventuring fantasies as she is.

As much as I deplore the facile "X meets Y" blurb-generating machine, I will confess that as The Little Friend caught its narrative stride, as Harriet and Hely began poking their noses into the various sordid doings they had unearthed—hiding, spying, eavesdropping—I kept thinking (strike me dead!) "Nancy Drew meets Harper Lee." For from that point on, The Little Friend seems to change not just its narrative mode, but also its deepest fundamental thrust, moving from almost inert brooding to what feels like an atmosphere-freighted adventure story. Alternating sections now give glimpses of the sordid comings-and-goings of the suspect and his unsavory kin. Here we are in the world of the Southern grotesque, among characters we might have met in the works of Flannery O'Connor or the more venomous recent fiction of Barry Hannah. We catch the stench of evil, look into lives lived past all hope of redemption. As Harriet's bravado encroaches on the genuinely dangerous, confrontation becomes inevitable and then, with strong cinematic flourishes, happens. The question is whether the shift from mood-centered scenes to action-driven plot works.

To my mind, it doesn't, not completely. The transition is too dramatic, and the cops-and-robbers contrivances—the clichés of that genre of suspense narrative—overwhelm what had been a complex, if slow-moving exploration of the deep undercurrents of family life and the ongoing abrasions of trauma. Still, Tartt writes with confident mastery in both modes—she has matured considerably as a stylist since The Secret History—and this carefully layered portrait of a remarkable girl's chrysalis summer offers enough substance to gratify the most impatient of her fans. This may not be a novel that is passed from hand to hand with the "You've got to read this" injunction, but in terms of Tartt's reputation among more serious readers, that may be a good thing.
From The Critics
Donna Tartt is a writer who seems to thrive on countering norms and expectations. She published her first novel in 1992, while the ink on her Bennington College diploma was still wet. The Secret History , a heated-up tale of murder and cultism at a very Bennington-like campus, was a publishing phenomenon, gaining an enormous popular success even as it posted respectable scores on the literary charts. Tartt earned instant Brat-pack status, and a whole generation of readers awaited the inevitable cash-in follow-up. Which then, confoundingly, did not and did not come.

Now, at last, a full decade later—and in an entertainment culture like ours, a decade is a lifetime—Tartt delivers The Little Friend , a vast, thickly woven and defyingly unchic work of immersed imagination. The novel is nothing anyone could have predicted.

Most contemporary novelists have forsworn accretions of atmosphere in favor of edgy sketches of the Cultural Now. Not Donna Tartt. Indeed, the first few hundred pages of The Little Friend are almost nothing but background and atmosphere. I mean nothing pejorative—not yet. The dense, steamy mood of a small-town Mississippi summer blends together beautifully with Tartt's extraordinarily patient evocation of the inwardness of twelve-year-old Harriet Cleve.

Gawky, rough-edged, stubborn, afloat in her bookishness and braced against the vast sorrows of family life, Harriet is the least likely of heroines. Yet page by page, as we take in the story of her family's tragedy—the unsolved hanging death of her older brother Robin when she was a very young girl—we grasp the extent of her resilience, that quality that generations ago was known as "pluck."Harriet is the family's one true survivor. Her father has absented himself altogether, working a job in another town; her mother lives in a medicated trance, barely stirring the air as she moves from room to room; and her teenage sister spends most of her time staring into the televisual beyond. There remains only a crew of eccentric aunts, presided over by the formidably peppery Edie, to supply the sustaining vibrations of familial domesticity.

Slowly, the novel gathers its momentum. Her spirit all but annihilated by the despairing inertia that surrounds her, but now feeling the first surges of adult independence, Harriet begins to dream a task, a meaning for herself. One day, impetuously, she inscribes "Goals for Summer" on a fresh page of her notebook. Writes Tartt: "Restlessly, she stared at this. Like the woodcutter's child at the beginning of a fairy tale, a mysterious longing had possessed her, a desire to travel far and do great things; and though she could not say exactly what it was she wanted to do, she knew that it was something grand and gloomy and extremely difficult."

Soon after, Harriet has her realization: Not only was her brother murdered, but she knows who did it. Fixing her suspicions on a former schoolmate of Robin's, one of a network of local ne'er-do-well brothers, she makes it her summer's mission to avenge Robin's death, and to that end enlists her friend Hely, a boy almost as far gone in adventuring fantasies as she is.

As much as I deplore the facile "X meets Y" blurb-generating machine, I will confess that as The Little Friend caught its narrative stride, as Harriet and Hely began poking their noses into the various sordid doings they had unearthed—hiding, spying, eavesdropping—I kept thinking (strike me dead!) "Nancy Drew meets Harper Lee." For from that point on, The Little Friend seems to change not just its narrative mode, but also its deepest fundamental thrust, moving from almost inert brooding to what feels like an atmosphere-freighted adventure story. Alternating sections now give glimpses of the sordid comings-and-goings of the suspect and his unsavory kin. Here we are in the world of the Southern grotesque, among characters we might have met in the works of Flannery O'Connor or the more venomous recent fiction of Barry Hannah. We catch the stench of evil, look into lives lived past all hope of redemption. As Harriet's bravado encroaches on the genuinely dangerous, confrontation becomes inevitable and then, with strong cinematic flourishes, happens. The question is whether the shift from mood-centered scenes to action-driven plot works.

To my mind, it doesn't, not completely. The transition is too dramatic, and the cops-and-robbers contrivances—the clichés of that genre of suspense narrative—overwhelm what had been a complex, if slow-moving exploration of the deep undercurrents of family life and the ongoing abrasions of trauma. Still, Tartt writes with confident mastery in both modes—she has matured considerably as a stylist since The Secret History —and this carefully layered portrait of a remarkable girl's chrysalis summer offers enough substance to gratify the most impatient of her fans. This may not be a novel that is passed from hand to hand with the "You've got to read this" injunction, but in terms of Tartt's reputation among more serious readers, that may be a good thing. —Sven Birkerts

Publishers Weekly
Widely anticipated over the decade since her debut in The Secret History, Tartt's second novel confirms her talent as a superb storyteller, sophisticated observer of human nature and keen appraiser of ethics and morality. If the theme of The Secret History was intellectual arrogance, here it is dangerous innocence. The death of nine-year-old Robin Cleve Dufresnes, found hanging from a tree in his own backyard in Alexandria, Miss., has never been solved. The crime destroyed his family: it turned his mother into a lethargic recluse; his father left town; and the surviving siblings, Allison and Harriet, are now, 12 years later-it is the early '70s-largely being raised by their black maid and a matriarchy of female relatives headed by their domineering grandmother and her three sisters. Although every character is sharply etched, 12-year-old Harriet-smart, stubborn, willful-is as vivid as a torchlight. Like many preadolescents, she's fascinated by secrets. She vows to solve the mystery of her brother's death and unmask the killer, whom she decides, without a shred of evidence, is Danny Ratliff, a member of a degenerate, redneck family of hardened criminals. (The Ratliff brothers are good to their grandmother, however; their solicitude at times lends the novel the antic atmosphere of a Booth cartoon.) Harriet's pursuit of Danny, at first comic, gathers fateful impetus as she and her best friend, Hely, stalk the Ratliffs, and eventually, as the plot attains the suspense level of a thriller, leads her into mortal danger. Harriet learns about betrayal, guilt and loss, and crosses the threshold into an irrevocable knowledge of true evil. If Tartt wandered into melodrama in The Secret History, this time she's achieved perfect control over her material, melding suspense, character study and social background. Her knowledge of Southern ethos-the importance of family, of heritage, of race and class-is central to the plot, as is her take on Southerners' ability to construct a repertoire, veering toward mythology, of tales of the past. The double standard of justice in a racially segregated community is subtly reinforced, and while Tartt's portrait of the maid, Ida Rhew, evokes a stereotype, Tartt adds the dimension of bitter pride to Ida's character. In her first novel, Tartt unveiled a formidable intelligence. The Little Friend flowers with emotional insight, a gift for comedy and a sure sense of pacing. Wisely, this novel eschews a feel-good resolution. What it does provide is an immensely satisfying reading experience. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
Tartt's first novel, A Secret History, was a surprise bestseller. This one is just as long and complex as her first, but it takes place in the South and her characters are younger. Her main character is a 12-year-old girl named Harriet Cleve whose 9-year-old brother was murdered in their backyard on Mother's Day when Harriet was just a baby. That tragedy has haunted the family for years and this book is about her quest to figure out the killer's identity. The story is filled with strange characters, many of whom Harriett is related to, as well as a weird family of crooks, snake handlers and bad guys. There is something Dickensonian about both Tartt's plot and her characters and Harriet will probably remind you of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, as well. There are sections of the book where Tartt seems to have enjoyed writing so much, she wrote too much, but otherwise it is a good read. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Random House, 624p., Ages 15 to adult.
— Nola Theiss
Library Journal
It has been a decade since Tartt blazed forth with The Secret History, but it was worth the wait. Set in small-town Mississippi, her new work centers on the family of Harriet Cleve, shattered forever after the murder by hanging of Harriet's nine-year-old brother, Robin, when Harriet was still a baby. Harriet's mother has withdrawn, her father has left town (though he still supports the family), and Harriet and sister Allison are essentially raised by their redoubtable grandmother, Edie, and a gaggle of aunts who, though mostly married, are ultimately "spinsters at heart." Harriet grows up an ornery and precocious child who at age 12 determines that she will finally uncover her brother's murderer. Whether or not she solves the crime is hardly the point; what matters here is the writing-dense, luscious, and exact-and Tartt's ability to reconstruct the life of this family in vivid detail. Harriet in particular is an extraordinary creation; she's a believable child who is also persuasively wise beyond her years. That debut was no fluke; highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.]-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The successor to Tartt's wildly successful debut (The Secret History, 1992) is another ambitious dark-hued melodrama-destined for big sales, though it's an intermittently creaky performance. The burden of sorrow that afflicts the family of a murdered child, an introspective preadolescent turned avenger and detective, and a clan of redneck malcontents who make Faulkner's Snopeses look like the Sitwells are among the lurid materials tossed amiably together in this very long, very overheated, yet absorbing novel. It begins magnificently, with a tense prologue that describes the discovery of nine-year-old Robin Dufresnes's hanged body on a hot Mother's Day afternoon in a small Mississippi town. The story then leaps ahead 12 years, to show us Robin's mother Charlotte still paralyzed by grief, his sister Allison (unable to remember what she alone presumably witnessed) sleeping 16 hours a day, and her younger sister Harriet-bookish and virtually friendless-persuaded that she knows who killed her brother (the murder was never solved), and how to punish him. Tartt whips up a townful of vivid eccentrics (prominent among them are the Dufresnes girls' four unmarried great-aunts, from whom Harriet solicits details about their family's hushed-up history), creating a rich backdrop against which Harriet and her partner in intrigue, an ingenuous boy named Hely Hull (who adores her), evade embarrassments like church camp and parental discipline, eavesdrop on a passel of sinister snake-handlers (thereby discovering the perfect instrument of revenge), and pit themselves against the local white-trash Ratliff brothers, led by murderous psychopath Farish, who conceals the amphetamines he produces in a remotewater tower. Despite an overload of staggered false climaxes, it's all quite irrationally entertaining. Direct allusions and glancing references alike make clear that The Little Friend is Tartt's homage to the romantic adventure novels of Twain and Stevenson-and, for much of its length, a rather bald-faced imitation of To Kill a Mockingbird. Still, the characters are gritty and appealing, and the story holds you throughout. Tartt appears to have struck gold once again.
From the Publisher
The Little Friend seems destined to become a special kind of classic. . . .It grips you like a fairy tale, but denies you the consoling assurance that it's all just make-believe.”—The New York Times Book Review

“At times humorous, at times heartbreaking, The Little Friend is most surprising when it is edge of the seat scary.” —USA Today

“Harriet [is] one of the most engaging and rounded characters you are likely to find…Tartt’s writing: gorgeous, fluent, visual.” —The Times (London)

“Languidly atmospheric... psychologically acute…. A rich novel that takes you somewhere worth going.” —The New Yorker

“A terrific story. . . . Tartt etches each of these characters with indelible assurance.” –Newsweek

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780747564492
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005

Meet the Author

Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent Novel. The Goldfinch Her novelsl The Secret History and The Little Friend were also international bestsellers. She was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College.

Biography

Donna Tartt excels at turning places of ordinary privilege into places tinged by anxiety and death. In her first novel, The Secret History, a small liberal arts college in New England becomes the playground for a dangerous, elite clique of scholars; in her next novel, The Little Friend, Mother’s Day in a small Mississippi town serves as the backdrop for the discovery of a nine-year-old boy’s hanging.

Though she has written several short stories and essays for magazines such as Harper’s and the Oxford American, little has been seen of Tartt since the publicity blitz that accompanied The Secret History’s publication in 1992. The book became a bestseller, and critics were reservedly enthusiastic.

Tartt had taken on a lot in The Secret History. It was partly a thriller, partly a critique of academe, and was densely packed with literary references from both classical Greek and contemporary literature. Some thought Tartt had bitten off more than she could chew, but she still earned praise for her sheer thematic ambition and her ability to create atmosphere and a driving pace. Ultimately, the book was enough to establish the Mississippi writer as a talent worth watching, and to inspire a handful of devotional web sites that dutifully enumerated her few-and-far-between publications.

The Tartt short stories that have since appeared in magazines show a glimpse of the talent that wowed professors at University of Mississippi – a Christmas pageant goes criminally awry, a former child star goes on what he considers a doomed visit to a hospitalized child – and her essays further reveal her skewed perspective. Finally, in 2002 and a decade after the debut that made her a sensation, Tartt published The Little Friend. The premise, a 12-year-old girl’s effort to avenge the murder of her older brother, shows that Tartt has not shied away from her exploration of the darknesses that lie underneath seemingly harmless facades.

Good To Know

Tartt's classmates at Bennington College included the writers Bret Easton Ellis and Jill Eisenstadt. It was Ellis who introduced Tartt to his agent, Amanda "Binky" Urban; and it was Urban who started a bidding war for The Secret History that scored Tartt a reported $450,000 advance.

Southern writer Willie Morris was a mentor for Tartt at University of Mississippi, where she spent her freshman year. Morris, who had read some stories of Tartt’s, introduced himself and told her, “I think you’re a genius.” He got her enrolled in a graduate writing seminar, and later encouraged her to transfer to Bennington.

Drawing on their college days, when Tartt would hold alcoholic "teas" in her dorm room, Ellis called his classmate "the only person I know who could drink me under the table" in a 1992 Vanity Fair article. Perhaps Tartt's stamina had something to do with her early "medicine" for the frequent illnesses caused by tonsils that were overdue for removal. Presiding as her nurse, Tartt's great-grandfather gave her regular doses of whiskey and cough syrup containing codeine. "Between the fever and the whiskey and the codeine," wrote Tartt in a Harper's essay, "I spent nearly two years of my childhood submerged in a pretty powerfully altered state of consciousness."

Signed first editions of The Secret History now run around $100.

Film rights to The Secret History were sold to director Alan Pakula; but Pakula died in 1998, and the project languished until Gwyneth Paltrow expressed interest. The film is now reportedly in production at Miramax under the actress, with Paltrow's brother Jake set to direct.

Tartt on the delay between books, to the BBC: "I can't write quickly. If I could write a book a year and maintain the same quality I'd be happy. I'd love to write a book a year but I don't think I'd have any fans.”

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    1. Also Known As:
      Donna Louise Tartt (birth name)
      Donna Louise Tartt (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Greenwood, Mississippi
    1. Education:
      Attended University of Mississippi; B.A., Bennington College, 1986

Read an Excerpt

For the rest of her life, 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 instead of noon, after church, which is when the Cleves usually had it. Dissatisfaction had been expressed by the elder Cleves at the new arrangement; and while this mainly had to do with suspicion of innovation, on principle, Charlotte felt that she should have paid attention to the undercurrent of grumbling, that it had been a slight but ominous warning of what was to come; a warning which, though obscure even in hindsight, was perhaps as good as any we can ever hope to receive in this life.

Though the Cleves loved to recount among themselves even the minor events of their family history–repeating word for word, with stylized narrative and rhetorical interruptions, entire death-bed scenes, or marriage proposals that had occurred a hundred years before–the events of this terrible Mother’s Day were never discussed. They were not discussed even in covert groups of two, brought together by a long car trip or by insomnia in a late-night kitchen; and this was unusual, because these family discussions were how the Cleves made sense of the world. Even the cruelest and most random disasters–the death, by fire, of one of Charlotte’s infant cousins; the hunting accident in which Charlotte’s uncle had died while she was still in grammar school–were constantly rehearsed among them, her grandmother’s gentle voice and her mother’s stern one merging harmoniously with her grandfather’s baritone and the babble of her aunts, and certain ornamental bits, improvisedby daring soloists, eagerly seized upon and elaborated by the chorus, until finally, by group effort, they arrived together at a single song; a song which was then memorized, and sung by the entire company again and again, which slowly eroded memory and came to take the place of truth: the angry fireman, failing in his efforts to resuscitate the tiny body, transmuted sweetly into a weeping one; the moping bird dog, puzzled for several weeks by her master’s death, recast as the grief-stricken Queenie of family legend, who searched relentlessly for her beloved throughout the house and howled, inconsolable, in her pen all night; who barked in joyous welcome whenever the dear ghost approached in the yard, a ghost that only she could perceive. “Dogs can see things that we can’t,” Charlotte’s aunt Tat always intoned, on cue, at the proper moment in the story. She was something of a mystic and the ghost was her innovation.

But Robin: their dear little Robs. More than ten years later, his death remained an agony; there was no glossing any detail; its horror was not subject to repair or permutation by any of the narrative devices that the Cleves knew. And–since this willful amnesia had kept Robin’s death from being translated into that sweet old family vernacular which smoothed even the bitterest mysteries into comfortable, comprehensible form–the memory of that day’s events had a chaotic, fragmented quality, bright mirror-shards of nightmare which flared at the smell of wisteria, the creaking of a clothes-line, a certain stormy cast of spring light.

Copyright 2002 by Donna Tartt
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Introduction

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

The Little Friend seems destined to become a special kind of classic. . . . It grips you like a fairy tale, but denies you the consoling assurance that it’s all just make-believe.” —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading of The Little Friend, the long-anticipated and widely praised bestseller by Donna Tartt, author of the critically acclaimed The Secret History.

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Foreword

1. The prologue offers glimpses of the household before Robin’s body is discovered. What do the descriptions of Charlotte, Edie, the great-aunts, and Ida Rhew show about the individual characters and the family dynamics? Do the reactions of Charlotte and Edie to the tragedy simply reinforce an established pattern or does a more profound change occur? How do their stories about Robin—their “exquisite delineation of his character—painstakingly ornamented over a number of years” [p. 19]—differ from their embellished and often improvised memories of life at Tribulation and other family stories?

2. Tartt writes “From the time she was old enough to talk, Harriet had been a slightly distressing presence in the Cleve household. . . . Harriet was not disobedient, exactly, or unruly, but she was haughty and somehow managed to irritate nearly every adult with whom she came in contact” [pp. 27–28]. Does Harriett live up to this description? Does she change over the course of the novel?

3. “She did not care for children’s books in which the children grew up, as what ‘growing up’ entailed (in life as in books) was a swift and inexplicable dwindling of character” [p. 157]. How do the adventure stories Harriet prefers inform her notions of what “growing up” entails? What does her choice of books reveal about her perceptions of how the world works and the things she will need to survive? Does she have a greater understanding of the adult world than most children her age?

4. The elderly Cleve sisters all have clear places in the family’s self-portrait. Edie, for example,“was both field marshal and autocrat, the person of greatest power in the family and the person most likely to act” [p. 28]. Do the other sisters fall as easily into general characterizations? Are Charlotte, Allison, and Harriet contemporary versions of the older generation? How do Tartt’s descriptions of minor characters like Mrs. Fountain [pp. 33–35] and Hely’s mother [pp. 212–14] help to bring the central female figures into sharper focus?

5. “Because her father was so quarrelsome and disruptive, and so dissatisfied with everything, it seemed right to Harriet that he did not live at home” [p. 68]. Why does Harriet see her father in such a stark, uncompromising way? What insight does this offer into Harriet’s approach to her emotions and her experiences? Are there incidents in the novel that present a different, more sympathetic view of Dix?

6. Harriet pieces together her case against Danny Ratliff from conversations with Pemberton Hull [pp. 105–108] and Ida Rhew [pp. 143–50], information she’s gleaned from local newspapers, and “random little scraps she’d picked up here and there over the years” [p. 119]. Does the evidence Harriet collects provide convincing proof of Danny’s guilt? What factors contribute to Harriet’s confidence that she has solved the mystery of Robin’s death? What makes Harriet decide to track down Robin’s killer? Does Harriet understand the emotions that trigger her need to find Robin’s killer? Why is she so sure that Danny is guilty of the crime? How valid is her reasoning and where does it fall apart?

7. How do the physical settings help to establish the social landscape of the novel? Why does Tartt call Tribulation an “extinct colossus” [p. 43], for example? What is the significance of the mounting chaos and disarray in Harriet’s own home? What does the new housing development, Oak Lawn Estates [pp. 165–66], represent?

8. The account of Harriet and Hely’s attempt to steal a poisonous snake from Eugene’s apartment and their confrontation with the Ratliff brothers [pp. 300–330] is almost unbearably frightening and intense. What devices does Tartt use to build and sustain the suspense?

9. A collection of misfits, fanatics, and criminals, the Ratliff family seems to embody Edie’s view of the white underclass: “The poor white has nothing to blame for his station but his own character. Well, of course, that won’t do. That would mean having to assume some responsibility for his own laziness and sorry behavior” [p. 146]. Do the portraits of the Ratliff brothers reinforce or belie Edie’s assumptions? What redeeming characteristics do Danny and Eugene have and how does Tartt make them apparent? Why has Tartt included Curtis in the family? How does his presence add to our understanding of the family?

10. A strong matriarch presides over both Harriet’s family and the Ratliffs. What qualities do Edie and Gum have in common? How does each exercise her power? To what extent are their approaches to life defined by their social status and personal experiences? Does Gum’s own life, for example, justify “the main lesson she had drilled into her grandsons: not to expect much from the world” [p. 357]? In what ways do the lessons Edie imposes, either explicitly or implicitly, reflect her own strengths and weaknesses? What comparisons can be drawn between Danny and Harriet’s families and, in particular, between Danny and Harriet themselves?

11. Why does Ida Rhew play such a critical role
in Harriet’s life? How does Ida’s position in the household illuminate the shortcomings not only of Charlotte, but of the other adults in Harriet’s life? How do the family’s reaction to her departure and Ida’s response to being fired [pp. 357–67] undermine Harriet’s vision of her world? In what ways do the emotions she experiences reflect both her perspective as a child and her emerging awareness and acceptance of adult uncertainties and moral ambiguities?

12. What do you make of the end of the novel? Hely thinks, “The mission was accomplished, the battle won; somehow—incredibly—she had done exactly what she said she would, and got away with the whole thing” [p. 624]. Harriet decides “She’d learned things she never knew, things she had no idea of knowing, and yet in a strange way it was the hidden message of Captain Scott, the part of the story she’s never seen until now: that victory and collapse were sometimes the same thing” [p. 544]. What do you think of these two very different assessments? How do they reflect the natures of the two characters? Does it matter that Robin’s murder remains unsolved or do you accept, as Libby says, that “the world is full of things we don’t understand” [p. 140]?

13. The Little Friend explores the relationships between blacks and whites in Alexandria from several perspectives. The blatant racism of the Ratliffs is clearly shown in such incidents as the shooting at the river [p. 142]. In which ways does Harriet’s family also exhibit a deep-seated, if more subtle, strain of racial prejudice? Is Harriet’s shocked reaction to Ida’s story about the church burning [pp. 146–47] a sign of her naiveté or does it reveal a sense of morality that distinguishes her (and by extension, her peers) from past generations?

14. The novel begins with stretches of long, languorous prose but later the pace quickens. What techniques does Tartt use to achieve this?

15. The term “Southern Gothic” is often used to describe writing set in the American South, from Tennessee Williams’ and Carson McCullers’ tales of families shaped by tragedy, insanity, and alcoholism to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Are there elements in The Little Friend that can be described as Southern Gothic and, if so, what are they? Were you reminded of other literary styles or authors while reading the book?

16. The novel’s epigraphs come from St. Thomas Aquinas and Harry Houdini. Why is this rather odd coupling of a religious scholar and saint and a magician appropriate to the story Tartt tells? What lesson is implicit in both quotations? Has Harriet gained “the slenderest knowledge of the highest things” by the novel’s end?

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Interviews & Essays

Q: Relieved?
A: About what?

Q: That you can finally tell people your novel is done.
A: Actually, I enjoy the process of writing a big long novel. Melville came up with the best metaphor for it: a deep-sea dive. “I love all men who dive,” he says. “Any fish can swim near the surface, but it takes a great whale to go down stairs five miles or more; & if he dont attain the bottom, why, all the lead in Galena can't fashion the plumet that will.” He's talking here not about Moby Dick, as you might think, but about writers—about “thought-divers,” as he calls them, “the whole corps that have been diving & coming up again with bloodshot eyes since the world began.”

Anyway, it gets into one's blood, this long lonely way of writing, like a long sea-voyage. Men used to come back from three-year whaling voyages sunburnt and emaciated and vowing never to go on another one, yet something would draw them back to the water again. And it's the same with me. I've written only two novels, but they're both long ones, and they each took a decade to write. It's a slow, quiet, gorgeous drift, with its own pleasures and difficulties and dangers, completely removed from whatever storms are going on up on the surface, and there's a slight sense of decompression when I come back up and into the regular old noisy world again. So I'm rather anxious to get back to work on something else. Not preliminary dives—not the little shallow ones, where you're only getting ready—but the kind where you don't come up again for years.

Q: It's been ten years. Inevitably, people are going to ask, why so long?
A: There's anexpectation 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. The Little Friend is a long book. It's also completely different from my first novel: different landscape, different characters, different use of language and diction, different approach to story. Taking on challenging projects is the way that one grows and extends one's range as a writer, one's technical command, so I consider the time well-spent.

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,” he says. 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.

Q: Like its predecessor, The Little Friend opens with a murder and deals ostensibly with crime and punishment. Why are you fascinated with these subjects?
A: I'm interested less in the act of murder itself than in what drives people to it, and the echoes and repercussions of the act.

Q: What prompted you to adopt the point of view of a young girl?
A: Actually, the novel isn't from the point of view of a young girl—a good deal of the novel is seen through her eyes, but by no means all of it. We also see into the hearts and minds of her grandmother, her mother and sister, her best friend—and we see too across town, into the hearts and minds of the people who are her sworn enemies. It's the viewpoint some critics call “authorial omniscient” and for reasons which are probably obvious, it's much more technically difficult to write than first-person.

I think that any writer will tell you that it's extremely hard to write about children, but the trick is to resist the temptation to make them “lovable.” Children have very sharp powers of observation—probably sharper than adults—yet at the same time their emotional reactions are murky and much more primitive. They see things quite clearly, but they don't entirely understand what they see, and they don't understand the full consequences of their actions.

Q: Ultimately, The Little Friend is an adventure story in the vein of classic tales by Stevenson and Dickens.
A: Well, Dickens didn't really write adventure stories, not the way that Stevenson did. They are very different writers, though something they share is a sharp visual perception and an even sharper eye for human nature, the character-betraying detail. But what mainly makes them both so delightful is that they are natural storytellers who have a wonderful command of style—even though their styles are very different.

Storytelling and elegant style don't always go hand in hand. The storytelling gift is innate: one has it or one doesn't. But style is at least partly a learned thing: one refines it by looking and listening and reading and practice—by work. When one finds the two together—storytelling and style—it's the most wonderful thing in the world to me. These are the books I never tire of. Too often, writers only think that one aspect or the other is important. If I was forced to choose between the two of them, I would have to choose style: I love Proust, who's an exquisite stylist, but sometimes a lax storyteller. Whereas I'm not so crazy about a writer like Theodore Dreiser, who's a crack storyteller with no sense of style at all. But the books I love best marry the two elements, and I try to marry the two in my own work.

Q: Did the work of Dickens and Stevenson exert any influence over you while you were working on The Little Friend?
A: In a subliminal sense, mostly. The books I loved in childhood—the first loves—I've read so often that I've internalized them in some really essential way: they are more inside me now than out.

Q: How prominently do innocence and the loss of innocence figure in The Little Friend?
A: That's not really an issue of the book, as far as I'm concerned—which is to say, I don't think about abstract concepts such as “innocence” or “loss of innocence” while I'm working. That's something that readers come in and find (or don't find) in the finished work, much later. It doesn't figure at all in the making of the work.

When I'm writing, I am concentrating almost wholly on concrete detail: the color a room is painted, the way a drop of water rolls off a wet leaf after a rain. Then—once one captures the detail itself—there's the work of getting the sound right, the particular rhythm of a sentence or a paragraph or a line of dialogue. But almost never, in writing a novel, do I find myself thinking about themes or symbols or things of that nature. They either occur naturally within a story—which is to say, spontaneously and unconsciously, as they do in a dream—or else they seem a bit forced.

Q: Do you feel that you are a Southern writer?
A: People always want to call me a Southern writer but though I grew up in the South, I don't feel that the label quite fits my work. My first book was written in New England, about New England. And I'm working on two projects at the moment—one a novella, the other a new novel—neither of which has anything at all to do with the South. So I'm not a Southern writer in the commonly held sense of the term, like Faulkner or Eudora Welty, who took the South for their entire literary environment and subject matter.

Q: What was it like for you to write a novel so immersed in Mississippi culture? Was there a lot of research involved, or did you draw more from personal experience?
A: Well, this is the nice thing about being a novelist, as opposed to a non-fiction writer (who has to do a lot of research) or an autobiographer (who relies on personal experience). The job of the novelist is to invent: to embroider, to color, to embellish, to entertain, to make things up. The art of what I do lies not in research or even recollection but primarily in invention. If a novel is merely a presentation of documentary facts then it isn't very interesting reading. You might as well read a travel guide or look at old photographs.
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Reading Group Guide

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"The Little Friend seems destined to become a special kind of classic. . . . It grips you like a fairy tale, but denies you the consoling assurance that it's all just make-believe." —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of The Little Friend, the long-anticipated and widely praised bestseller by Donna Tartt, author of the critically acclaimed The Secret History.

1. The prologue offers glimpses of the household before Robin's body is discovered. What do the descriptions of Charlotte, Edie, the great-aunts, and Ida Rhew show about the individual characters and the family dynamics? Do the reactions of Charlotte and Edie to the tragedy simply reinforce an established pattern or does a more profound change occur? How do their stories about Robin—their "exquisite delineation of his character—painstakingly ornamented over a number of years" [p. 19]—differ from their embellished and often improvised memories of life at Tribulation and other family stories?

2. Tartt writes "From the time she was old enough to talk, Harriet had been a slightly distressing presence in the Cleve household. . . . Harriet was not disobedient, exactly, or unruly, but she was haughty and somehow managed to irritate nearly every adult with whom she came in contact" [pp. 27–28]. Does Harriett live up to this description? Does she change over the course of the novel?

3. "She did not care for children's books in which the children grew up, as what ‘growing up' entailed (in lifeas in books) was a swift and inexplicable dwindling of character" [p. 157]. How do the adventure stories Harriet prefers inform her notions of what "growing up" entails? What does her choice of books reveal about her perceptions of how the world works and the things she will need to survive? Does she have a greater understanding of the adult world than most children her age?

4. The elderly Cleve sisters all have clear places in the family's self-portrait. Edie, for example, "was both field marshal and autocrat, the person of greatest power in the family and the person most likely to act" [p. 28]. Do the other sisters fall as easily into general characterizations? Are Charlotte, Allison, and Harriet contemporary versions of the older generation? How do Tartt's descriptions of minor characters like Mrs. Fountain [pp. 33–35] and Hely's mother [pp. 212–14] help to bring the central female figures into sharper focus?

5. "Because her father was so quarrelsome and disruptive, and so dissatisfied with everything, it seemed right to Harriet that he did not live at home" [p. 68]. Why does Harriet see her father in such a stark, uncompromising way? What insight does this offer into Harriet's approach to her emotions and her experiences? Are there incidents in the novel that present a different, more sympathetic view of Dix?

6. Harriet pieces together her case against Danny Ratliff from conversations with Pemberton Hull [pp. 105–108] and Ida Rhew [pp. 143–50], information she's gleaned from local newspapers, and "random little scraps she'd picked up here and there over the years" [p. 119]. Does the evidence Harriet collects provide convincing proof of Danny's guilt? What factors contribute to Harriet's confidence that she has solved the mystery of Robin's death? What makes Harriet decide to track down Robin's killer? Does Harriet understand the emotions that trigger her need to find Robin's killer? Why is she so sure that Danny is guilty of the crime? How valid is her reasoning and where does it fall apart?

7. How do the physical settings help to establish the social landscape of the novel? Why does Tartt call Tribulation an "extinct colossus" [p. 43], for example? What is the significance of the mounting chaos and disarray in Harriet's own home? What does the new housing development, Oak Lawn Estates [pp. 165–66], represent?

8. The account of Harriet and Hely's attempt to steal a poisonous snake from Eugene's apartment and their confrontation with the Ratliff brothers [pp. 300–330] is almost unbearably frightening and intense. What devices does Tartt use to build and sustain the suspense?

9. A collection of misfits, fanatics, and criminals, the Ratliff family seems to embody Edie's view of the white underclass: "The poor white has nothing to blame for his station but his own character. Well, of course, that won't do. That would mean having to assume some responsibility for his own laziness and sorry behavior" [p. 146]. Do the portraits of the Ratliff brothers reinforce or belie Edie's assumptions? What redeeming characteristics do Danny and Eugene have and how does Tartt make them apparent? Why has Tartt included Curtis in the family? How does his presence add to our understanding of the family?

10. A strong matriarch presides over both Harriet's family and the Ratliffs. What qualities do Edie and Gum have in common? How does each exercise her power? To what extent are their approaches to life defined by their social status and personal experiences? Does Gum's own life, for example, justify "the main lesson she had drilled into her grandsons: not to expect much from the world" [p. 357]? In what ways do the lessons Edie imposes, either explicitly or implicitly, reflect her own strengths and weaknesses? What comparisons can be drawn between Danny and Harriet's families and, in particular, between Danny and Harriet themselves?

11. Why does Ida Rhew play such a critical role in Harriet's life? How does Ida's position in the household illuminate the shortcomings not only of Charlotte, but of the other adults in Harriet's life? How do the family's reaction to her departure and Ida's response to being fired [pp. 357–67] undermine Harriet's vision of her world? In what ways do the emotions she experiences reflect both her perspective as a child and her emerging awareness and acceptance of adult uncertainties and moral ambiguities?

12. What do you make of the end of the novel? Hely thinks, "The mission was accomplished, the battle won; somehow—incredibly—she had done exactly what she said she would, and got away with the whole thing" [p. 624]. Harriet decides "She'd learned things she never knew, things she had no idea of knowing, and yet in a strange way it was the hidden message of Captain Scott, the part of the story she's never seen until now: that victory and collapse were sometimes the same thing" [p. 544]. What do you think of these two very different assessments? How do they reflect the natures of the two characters? Does it matter that Robin's murder remains unsolved or do you accept, as Libby says, that "the world is full of things we don't understand" [p. 140]?

13. The Little Friend explores the relationships between blacks and whites in Alexandria from several perspectives. The blatant racism of the Ratliffs is clearly shown in such incidents as the shooting at the river [p. 142]. In which ways does Harriet's family also exhibit a deep-seated, if more subtle, strain of racial prejudice? Is Harriet's shocked reaction to Ida's story about the church burning [pp. 146–47] a sign of her naiveté or does it reveal a sense of morality that distinguishes her (and by extension, her peers) from past generations?

14. The novel begins with stretches of long, languorous prose but later the pace quickens. What techniques does Tartt use to achieve this?

15. The term "Southern Gothic" is often used to describe writing set in the American South, from Tennessee Williams' and Carson McCullers' tales of families shaped by tragedy, insanity, and alcoholism to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Are there elements in The Little Friend that can be described as Southern Gothic and, if so, what are they? Were you reminded of other literary styles or authors while reading the book?

16. The novel's epigraphs come from St. Thomas Aquinas and Harry Houdini. Why is this rather odd coupling of a religious scholar and saint and a magician appropriate to the story Tartt tells? What lesson is implicit in both quotations? Has Harriet gained "the slenderest knowledge of the highest things" by the novel's end?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 92 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(28)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(19)

1 Star

(20)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 92 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Brilliant. Fascinating. Disturbing.

    I sort of want to scream when I read lukewarm reviews of this book. Admittedly, people may get the wrong idea when they read the back jacket, or the first few pages, and anticipate some sort of murder mystery thrill.
    The death of Harriet's brother is merely background for her character. The skill with which Tartt explores the inner workings and thought processes of a virtually abandoned 12 year old girl whose older brother's murder has never been solved cannot be praised highly enough. Do you remember what your thought processes were like when you were 12? I sure as hell don't. But Tartt seems to have magically leaped over that crevasse that separates us from our youth, and from understanding the mysterious social workings of 12 year olds.

    I found this book, though lengthy, to be absolutely riveting.

    Donna Tartt uses her extensive knowledge of the South to create a book that isn't so much a story as a look into someone else's culture (me not being from the South). The book mainly focuses on a little girl growing up in the aftermath of her dear brother's unsolved murder, and the impact that level of tragedy can have on a family.

    It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did I really enjoyed this book. It took me about a month to read it, but overall I found it very satisfying. Tartt has a nice way with words, able to explain and detail things at length but in an easy-flowing kind of way. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a long comfortable summer read.

    21 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Better than A Secret History

    I've read both of Tartt's books (and eagerly await the 3rd), and while both are beautifully written, I am surprised by the number of people who prefer The Secret History to The Little Friend. This one I want to read over and over and over. Tartt has the ability to make each page lush, vibrant and moving.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Big character development smack-down

    With this book Donna Tartt simply throws down the gauntlet on character development. This, her second, book was a long time coming and you can see why...these characters have been simmered and cooked down to the kind of flavor meld of a spaghetti sauce that has been on the stove all day.

    As a voracious reader I am so happily suprised when a book like this falls into my hands. It's long, the story is compelling, I adore the characters, and I lose DAYS to reading.

    Harriet easily makes it to the top of my alltime favorite hot 100 characters. I highly recommend this book.

    Be forewarned if you have a small child that the first part of the book is definately a punch to the gut. But don't let it deter you -- it's fiction, and it's a fantastic book.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2005

    WORST BOOK EVER

    I was so angry after finishing this book that I threw it on the floor and ranted for about 15 minutes. Not only do you not find out who killed the little boy, but the story just ends at random. No resolution of the story or the characters. It was like having the power go out fifteen minutes before finding out the end of CSI. Does the huge amount of evidence left behind get Harriet, or does she get away with it simply because she's a kid? I felt cheated and robbed. Don't bother reading this book. EVER.

    6 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2007

    A beauiful book to get lost in.

    You feel you are in this book and don't want it to end. this is a book to lose yourself in.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2005

    ARRGGH!!

    Ok, yeah, I am really ready to fight. Why did I spend all this effort forcing myself to read this book when the ENDING WAS JUST RANDOM??? If it had had a spectacular ending, I may have felt justified. I just wish I could get the 2 days I spent reading this blather back!

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2005

    book diagnosed with ADD

    I was extremely disappointed in this book. i can usually read a book in 2-4 days, this one took me 3 weeks because i was so not interested in finishing. The only reason i did complete it was because i had to work 2 hours to afford it. This book reminds me of a little kid with ADD. This book constantly goes off on tangents that have no relation to the story: girl trying to find brother's killer. THe above is the plot which is basically lost in the book. i would almost say this was a high school essay that required 600 pages and the content was only 300, so extra stuff was thrown in to meet the quota. I had a friend read it because she couldn't believe it was as bad as i said. she got as far as page 50 and quit.I DO NOT recommend this book to anyone.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Disappointing

    Started with Tartt's The Goldfinch and was motivated to read her 2 earlier works. The middle one, The Little Friend, was tedious, a pseudo Southern Gothic and I found myself skipping pages just to see if it would improve by the end. Grotesque characters, contorted plotting and situations that strained credulity in a book that wasn't billed as science fiction. Skip it unless you are a masochist.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2004

    the best book I read this year

    Wow! From the first sentence I was hooked. I thought I would be reading to solve the mystery of the lynching, but I became so engrossed in the characters and the subplots that the mystery became secondary. This is a great Southern gothic novel -- a combination of To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn. I'm giving this to everyone on my Christmas list.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2004

    get lost in the storytelling

    This is in my top 10 list of all time best stories. Every character described is a whole, complex and complete individual. It is a fascinating character study and the prose is a pleasure to savor. Have no preconceived notions before you start. Don't try to rush through it. If this was a movie, it would deserve an Academy Award. Thank you Donna Tartt!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014

    If John Irving, Dickens, & Stephen King had worked together,,,

    If John Irving, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King had together written about small town Mississippi from the point of view of a 12 year old girl, this is the book they would have written• There are odd characters, a longing to be finally happy, & a thread of real menace running through the story• It's A Prayer for Owen Meany meets David Copperfield, with a bit of Breaking Bad, in a southern Castle Rock•

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2014

    Save your money....

    Longest, most boring book ever. Took me over a month. I was determined and didn't want to be a quitter. I am an avid reader, reading many off the wall books, best sellers, crime, romance....This is the second book Of Tartts I have read, in my opinion a waste

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013

    200 Pages Too Long

    The Little Friend is interesting and well written but definitely needed an editor to excise 200 pages of extraneous information.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2013

    At first, I was enthralled by this novel. Tonally, it reminded

    At first, I was enthralled by this novel. Tonally, it reminded me a great deal of 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and not just because the protagonist is a little girl; there are allusions to race and the youthful realization that there is a divide that is ugly and about which people don't want to speak (among other things). However, as pages turned and time elapsed, I found this book to be a bore. I hung on for a mystery that was of no consequence and instead got sucked into an implausible and exhausting plot that didn't really explore racism much at all, and didn't really capture the south particularly well; it just ping-ponged between Harriet and a cast of characters who were at times charming, but for the most part didn't make a difference one way or another. Harriet was a strong character with nowhere to go and no one to go there with. Stylistically, Ms. Tartt would leap out at us at times with brilliant turns of phrase, but at other times metaphors seemed forced, like contrivances in an old noir detective novel. It felt like a prosaic skip down familiar territory with an author who could wordsmith admirably.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    6 years and counting

    I've had this book for 6 years and have started reading it 3 or 4 different times. Very difficult to follow. Don't know if I'll ever get through it.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    Incredibly boring, couldn't finish

    A promising backdrop of murder and coming-of-age with a dash of racial tension degrades into a detailed account of daily life during a slow Southern summer, where absolutely nothing happens. Maybe the last 300 pages are better than the first, but I gave up.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2014

    Creepy cover

    Looks like chucky!!! The third with jason and freddy cougar!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

    Great beginning, terrible ending

    Just don't bother, you'll bemoan the time you wasted.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2014

    Njgephart@comcast.net

    Aadd me

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    well i just finished this book , i really liked everything excep

    well i just finished this book , i really liked everything except the ending I thought maybe she would sujm it all up or something, it just ends is there another book to this. have so many questions. ugg but i did enjoy reading it.

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