After the smashing worldwide success of her debut novel, The Secret History, Donna Tartt disappeared for a while, causing some fans to fear that she'd pulled a Salinger and would never be heard from (but for rumors and innuendos) again. They needn't have feared; Tartt merely spent ten years writing her follow-up, The Little Friend. A bit of a change from The Secret History, a roman à clef spun into a character-driven thriller, The Little Friend is Tartt's ode to childhood adventures à la Harriet the Spy and To Kill a Mockingbird, with a bit of Southern Gothic thrown in for good measure. Twelve years after her older brother's murder, inquisitive Harriet embarks on a quest to finally unmask the killer and hopefully bring peace and unity to her shattered family life. Harriet's journey leads her through psychologically taut, physically dangerous terrain in a plot that is compelling enough on its own, but rendered mesmerizing by Tartt's brilliant, sharp-edged prose. The Little Friend is a literary mystery that stays with you, in ways both reassuring and chilling, long after you've closed the book. Bolton, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The hugely anticipated new novel by the author of The Secret History
—a best-seller nationwide and around the world, and one of the most astonishing debuts in recent times—The Little Friend
is even more transfixing and resonant.
In a small Mississippi town, Harriet Cleve Dusfresnes 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.
A revelation of familial longing and sorrow, The Little Friend explores crime and punishment, as well as the hidden complications and consequences that hinder the pursuit of truth and justice. A novel of breathtaking ambition and power, it is rich in moral paradox, insights into human frailty, and storytelling brilliance.
"[V]ery long, very overheated, yet absorbing....Despite an overload of staggered false climaxes, it's all quite irrationally entertaining....Tartt appears to have struck gold once again." Kirkus Reviews
"[W]ell worth the long wait....[A]n exceptionally suspenseful, flawlessly written story fairly teeming with outsize characters and roiling emotion." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (Starred Review)
"A far more emotionally resonant novel than its predecessor....[Ms. Tartt] makes palpable the losses that the family has sustained over the years." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"The Little Friend is a terrific story....By now it should be obvious what Tartt's been up to since The Secret History came out: she's been slaving away on this extraordinary book." Malcolm Gladwell, Newsweek
"[L]anguidly atmospheric....[B]y the time you get to page 543, you're so engrossed in just about everything but the murder that you no longer care who dunnit....[I]t takes you somewhere worth going." Daniel Mendelsohn, The New Yorker
"Tartt is able to quietly transform the book from a patient study of a family's disassembly and despair to a gut-thumping story of a little girl seeking a measure of understanding and well-deserved revenge....Though absent of the twisted sexual tension of East Coast blue bloods that so thoroughly inhabited The Secret History, Tartt's first novel, The Little Friend is a more focused read, a deeper exploration of the dark manner in which the past never leaves us alone." Tom Chiarella, Esquire
"Because of Tartt's mastery of suspense, this book will grip most readers all the way through to its bitter end....Although this is a large novel, Tartt has created a claustrophobic world in which there is little possibility of freedom for any character." Natasha Walter, The Guardian (U.K.)
"[F]rankly frustrating. For most of its length, The Little Friend lacks the drive of a book that needs to be written, even if it offers the considerable pleasures of being the work of someone who knows how to write." David Hare, The Observer (U.K.)
"[A] slow wind-up to a big finish....While no one would confuse the writing style of Donna Tartt with that of Harper Lee, the theme each explores the dissipation of childhood is powerful, compelling and moving." J.D. Suntan, Willamette Week (Portland, OR)
"[A] sprawling story of vengeance...told in a rich, controlled voice that can come only from long effort....[A] grownup book that captures the dark, Lord of the Flies side of childhood and classic children's literature." James Poniewozik, Time
"[C]onfirms [Tartt's] talent as a superb storyteller, sophisticated observer of human nature and keen appraiser of ethics and morality....The Little Friend flowers with emotional insight, a gift for comedy and a sure sense of pacing." Publishers Weekly
"[D]estined to become a special kind of classic a book that precocious young readers pluck from their parents' shelves and devour with surreptitious eagerness..." A. O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review
"In this review, I can tell you that The Little Friend her second novel, arriving 10 years after The Secret History is overlong, its writing occasionally precious and its resolution murky; and I can also praise the book's vital characters, its supple conjuring of mood and place, and its dry, dark humor. But I can't explain how it is that this is a novel you sink into, or how Tartt casts her weird spell. I suspect, however, that it has nothing to do with acquired technique or any understanding of real life; no doubt she picked up the knack during a lifetime of obsessive and probably unhealthy reading. Wherever she got it, she sure knows how to write the sort of book that people who want to get lost in a book get lost in." Laura Miller, Salon.com
From the author of The Secret History
"an elegant, edifying work of art" (Entertainment Weekly
), an international bestseller, and one of the most astonishing debuts in recent times comes a hugely anticipated novel:
In a small Mississippi town, Harriet Cleve Dusfresnes grows up haunted by the murder of her brother, who was found hanging from a tree in their yard when she was just a baby. Robin's killer was never identified, nor has the family recovered. With her father having absented himself and her mother incapacitated by grief, Harriet lives largely in the world of her own imagination, alone even in the company of her teenage sister (destined never to recall whatever she saw that terrible day) and elderly relatives (for whom this tragedy was a culminating blow). For Harriet, though, Robin is a link to the happier past she knows about from stories and photographs; and so she decides, in the summer of her 12th year, to find his murderer and exact her revenge.
Even more transfixingly suspenseful than its predecessor, The Little Friend is a dark novel of lost childhood, breathtaking in its ambition and power, rich in moral paradox, profound insights into human frailty, and storytelling brilliance.
About the Author
Donna Tartt is a novelist, essayist, and critic. Her first novel, The Secret History, has been translated into twenty-four languages.