Donna Tartt’s second novel has been a favourite of mine since I first read it at the age of sixteen. It was a challenge back then, and I do remember struggling through some lengthy chapters. This time round, I didn’t struggle and most certainly didn’t get bored.
Although not as intellectually challenging as the first time round, emotionally The Little Friend was still quite exhausting. This is certainly not a book to pick up if you’re already feeling down. But I have always been drawn to dark and morbid books, so perhaps that is why I liked The Little Friend so much.
From the outset the book is bleak, starting with the murder of a small child on Mother’s Day. Nine year old Robin, loved dearly by all of his family and friends, is found hanging from a tree in the garden. We then skip forward twelve years, to the same house and the same family, still suffering from the terrible loss. The father no longer lives there and the mother walks around the house like a ghost. Robin’s younger sisters Allison and Harriet have grown up in a cold, mournful environment, their older brother still present in the shadows and memories of their family members.
Allison is a frail, weak girl, both in body and spirit. Twelve year old Harriet is made of tougher stuff, and is the tomboy of the town. She is a grumpy know-it-all, who I imagine to have a constant frown plastered on her serious face. But she is such a brilliant character. She’s the sort of girl who chases snakes, learns to hold her breathe under water for longer than any adult, and makes a vow to find and kill her brother’s murderer over the summer break.
The Little Friend is a book that you can really sink your teeth into. The writing beautifully captures the small and seemingly insignificant moments that can mean so much to a child. For example, Harriet’s panic and despair at losing a pair of gardening gloves given to her as a gift by her loving maid. The guilt that weighs her down, can be felt in the reader’s stomach, possibly reminding them of similar moments of regret in childhood.
This is not a comfortable book to read. The tension is constantly building and by the final chapters, you almost want the book to end so that you can finally breathe again! But I loved every moment.
I simply can’t find anything to complain about with this book. So if it sounds like your sort of thing, give it a go and let me know what you think! You can buy a copy by clicking on the picture below.