The Little Friend – Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt Little Friend

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.

14 thoughts on “The Little Friend – Donna Tartt

  1. The most memorable for me was the character of the mother. She is this shadow that wanders the house, drugged-up, eating ice cream (if I remember correctly)- she was just so easy to picture. I like this book a lot and also wish Ms. Tartt would churn them out a bit faster.

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  2. I read The Little Friend last summer and loved it. My husband gave me the hardcover book, as he founded it in his office one morning and no one claimed it. What a treat for me, will surely read again, and The Secret History is on my TBR list.

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    • Ooh, lucky you! It’s great when a book comes into your life like that – it feels like destiny! Let me know how you get on with The Secret History. I’m planning a re-read at some point soonish.

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  3. I read this long and gripping story whilst laid up after a foot operation earlier this year. It was just the job for someone who had endless time for reading. I really liked the characterisation of the heroine and her family members, especially the grandmother. I also thought it was clever, and all the more engaging as the narrator was a child. The commentary on the different strata of society in this part of America was an interesting thread which wove its way through the entire story. Donna Tartt’s powers of description were a masterpiece of suspense, even when some of the events were a little fanciful. However, I thought the book was unnecessarily long and I may not have persevered with it if I hadn’t been a “captive audience.”

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    • I also liked the characterisation of the other family member, especially the grandmother and the mother. All of the great aunts were brilliant too with their different personalities.
      I can understand why people feel that the book is a bit too long, because I remember thinking that the first time I read it. This time I really did enjoy every moment!

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    • That’s the problem – finding the time! I know exactly how you feel. I hope you do manage to get to her soon. I’d really like to know what you think of her. People seem to either lover her or hate her from reviews I’ve read!

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    • Haha, yes, I would like to her to write a bit faster too! Most people I speak to seem to prefer The Secret History. I read that one when I was a teenager too, but after The Little Friend. I have to say I found it more difficult and think I need to try it again (which I plan to do!) I did enjoy it, but think a lot of it went over my head. Hopefully I will understand it a bit better 10 years on!

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