The Little Friend – Donna Tartt

Finally, I had the time and mental capacity to pick up the last of Tartt’s work that I haven’t read. I’ve have heard that the Little Friend is quite different to both the Secret History and the Goldfinch, which is funny as I found even those two novels completely different from each other. Both consuming novels I couldn’t put down, I was excited to dive back into her writing once again. The Little Friend starts on Mother’s Day 1964 with a family together, celebrating, when disaster strikes and Robin, the cheeky beloved son is found dead, hanging from a tree in the yard. The bulk of the book is told 12 years in the future, mostly told from the perspective of Robin’s younger sister, Harriet, who was only a baby when he died. Summer holidays and Harriet decides it is up to her to solve the mystery of Robin’s death and discover who killed him.


Once again Tartt shows her amazing capacity for drawing in a reader and hypnotising with her words. She is truly a magnificent writer and I constantly find myself entranced with her passages. Unlike her other novels, however, I did feel that this particular story was a little drawn out and could have benefited from a little more pace and a few less pages. It pains me to say it but this is probably my least favourite novel of hers.


I found the perspective of Harriet and the tales of her dysfunctional family utterly riveting. Her strange, ethereal sister Allison, her absent, shadow of a mother still reeling from Robin’s death over a decade later and her father, who escaped to another town to avoid his family. Most of all, Harriet’s grandmother Edie and her sisters. The interactions between these characters are fascinating. Harriet has such an unconventional relationship with each of her family members and I found myself intrigued and moving through her perspectives quite quickly.


What let down the book for me was reading parts of the book from the perspectives of the Ratliff’s. I found each of their characters abhorrent and unlikeable and felt that their parts slowed down the story for me. I wasn’t interested in their drug-addled lives and found it difficult to even feel any sympathy for them, even the ones who never truly had a chance in their lives. I didn’t enjoy their line of story, particularly it’s prominence at the end of the story and found the ending quite unsatisfying.


Despite the parts of the book I felt were flawed and the fact that at times I felt like I was pushing myself through the story for the sake of it I did throughly enjoy parts of it. It was interesting reading a Tartt novel that focused on strong female characters. In both her other novels the male characters are prominent, with female characters not taking truly important roles. I thought she created some great characters and I loved Harriet and Allison and Edie and her sisters. They were fascinating, unique and memorable. The writing, also, as always alluring and descriptive. I give The Little Friend three deadly snakes.


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One thought on “The Little Friend – Donna Tartt

  1. I’ve read The Secret History, which I thought was good enough to buy The Goldfinch—though I am yet to read that; hopefully I will soon—and I’d be tempted to buy The Little Friend regardless of how I feel because although agreeably sometimes pages could be shortened, Tartt’s style is rich and imaginative, and I would love to read more of it.


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