The Little Friend
'In a literary age of diet and dearth, Tartt invites us to feast ... the opening tragedy strikes a note of rich, flamboyant Southern Gothic that resonates throughout' - Independent
'You will rarely have read better ... Because of Tartt's mastery of suspense, this book will grip readers all the way through to its bitter end' - Guardian
'Destined to become a special kind of classic - a book that precocious young readers pluck from their parents' shelves and devour with surreptitious eagerness, thrilled to discover a writer who seems at once to read their minds and to offer up the sweet-and-sour fruits of exotic, forbidden knowledge' - New York Times Book Review
A beautiful new limited edition paperback of The Little Friend, Donna Tartt's huge selling second novel, follow up to the worldwide bestseller The Secret History, published as part of the Bloomsbury Modern Classics list
The sunlit rails gleamed like dark mercury, arteries branching out silver from the switch points; the old telegraph poles were shaggy with kudzu and Virginia creeper and, above them, rose the water tower, its surface all washed out by the sun. Harriet, cautiously, stepped towards it in the weedy clearing. Around and around it she walked, around the rusted metal legs.
One day is never, ever discussed by the Cleve family. The day that nine-year-old Robin was found hanging by the neck from a tree in their front garden. Twelve years later the family are no nearer to uncovering the truth of what happened to him.
Inspired by Houdini and Robert Louis Stevenson, twelve-year-old Harriet sets out to find her brother's murderer – and punish him. But what starts out as a child's game soon becomes a dangerous journey into the menacing underworld of a small Mississippi town.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Donna Tartt followed up her seismic debut, The Secret History, with this sprawling story about a scrappy preteen named Harriet who investigates the unsolved murder of her older brother. We view the rural world of 1970s-era Mississippi through Harriet’s eyes as she bosses around the neighborhood boys, grapples with the mistreatment of her family’s elderly black maid and eventually puts herself in harm’s way. Tartt’s serpentine plot brings her young heroine face-to-face with Deep South baddies, from snake handlers to meth dealers. But the author’s greatest accomplishment is creating a character that is the heir apparent to Scout Finch and giving her a coming-of-age story that’s as wild, precocious, and unsupervised as it is devastating.
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.