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The Little Friend

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  19,123 ratings  ·  1,938 reviews
Bestselling author Donna Tartt returns with a grandly ambitious and utterly riveting novel of childhood, innocence and evil.

The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it i...more
Paperback, 620 pages
Published October 28th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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May 29, 2008 tee rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: i-own
Currently reading this one and all I can think of is a passage from a writing-fiction manual that I read. The guy who wrote the article said that he once wrote a whole book and his publisher told him that it was good back-story, it was good for the AUTHOR to get to know his characters so when he wrote about them - they'd be 3D and real but it wasn't necessary for the readers to know most of the stuff that was written. You can remove a lot of the bulk from that first draft and keep it to yourself...more
Jul 25, 2007 Tina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers
I sort of want to scream when I read lukewarm reviews of this book. Admittedly, people may get the wrong idea when they read the back jacket, or the first few pages, and anticipate some sort of murder mystery thrill.
The death of Harriet's brother is merely background for her character. The skill with which Tartt explores the inner workings and thought processes of a virtually abandoned 12 year old girl whose older brother's murder has never been solved cannot be praised highly enough. Tartt seem...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oh, Harriet, you poor dear.

Twelve and a half, homely and unpopular. The girl with the antique-sounding name and possessor of an "old soul." She has a gruff, common sense approach to life that eschews flattery and wins her few fans among her peers and relatives.

In vain, the aunts tried to teach her to be polite. "But don't you understand, darling," said Tat, "that if you don't like the fruitcake, it's better to eat it anyway instead of hurting your hostess's feelings?"

"But I don't like fruitcake
Lord Beardsley
Oct 28, 2007 Lord Beardsley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of third-rate knockoff Southern Gothic
Shelves: read2007
I gave this book three stars only because of the author's ability to use mood, setting, and descriptive in an incredibly amazing way. However, this book was the biggest cocktease ever. Chekhov once said that if a gun is laying on the table in the first scene it had better be fired by the last. I firmly believe this, but Ms. Tartt seems not to. Oh well. It just seems that if you begin a book with a nine-year-old boy hanging dead from a tree, and the entire plot is driven from this, something shou...more
Lauren Lastrapes
Apr 29, 2007 Lauren Lastrapes rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Universe
This is such a great novel. I read it a few years ago, I think it was in 2004, I don't really remember now, but I know it was before I separated from Fabio since during the separation process I only read books by Chris Bojalian and books that Lauren mailed me. She didn't mail me The Little Friend, but I'm sure it is she who recommended it. Just last night, I was talking with my friend Jenna about this book (which I convinced her to read, and which she is reading now) and we were cracking up over...more
Donna really screws the pooch on this one. She makes a very likeable character, a smart, precocious little girl in a small country town who makes enemies with a group of meth-heads while trying to solve the mystery of her 9-year-old brother's hanging when she was a baby, and turns it into a 576-page snoozefest. I eventually had to go to a library miles away and check out the audio version so I didn't have to waste my precious eyesight reading it. I read this one review where the person said they...more
Ponderous and immersive

This novel starts slowly and never really picks up speed. The author's ability to draw the reader into the scenes and lives of the characters, however, makes this a worthwhile read. The characters are well developed and realistic- quirky and original. Their insights into life are often fascinating and engaging.
I liked the way I simply forgot about time when the author drew me in, and although the plot moved forward slowly (even sideways sometimes) the setting and situation...more
I LOVED The Secret History. I do not love this. Elegant prose can only keep a reader for so long. I imagine that many people, me included, do not want a 10 page description of two troubled twentysomething doing crystal meth and getting sunburnt in the middle of July. I actually made the 200 page mark. With the potential of more sweaty boys on drugs in the next 400 pages, I put the book down and re-read The Secret History instead.
Edward Lorn
THE LITTLE FRIEND Review Donna Tartt's sophomore effort has probably the worst cover and title out of all the books I've ever read. I read the entire novel (of course, or else we wouldn't be here) and I have no idea why the book is entitled THE LITTLE FRIEND. As to the doll on the cover... there are four paragraphs about 400 pages in that speak about a doll the main character's grandmother tries to remember for no other reason than not recalling the name is annoying her. She's just been in a ter...more
Juli Pennock
Review to come, I'm still a bit flabbergasted...

Killed the life out of me. Just gorgeous, I loved it. I hate the word "evocative," because it seems terribly pretentious…like “terribly pretentious” doesn’t sound pretentious at all, jeez, but this book is that. Evocative. Powerful, deep and dark, fascinating, poetic, and just overall beautifully written.

Harriet is a firecracker, a pistol, a "trip." She's so completely herself and so completely relatable, it's almost eery. My childhood was nothing...more
Sometimes, I do believe, one's expectations can completely ruin a book for a person. On the other hand, expectations can only infrequently enhance one's experience of a book. It took me three attempts, years apart, to get through The Little Friend ... but it was worth it! A wonderful book, and a unique heroine, young Harriet. Just read patiently and you will be richly rewarded. At first I wanted to give this book 4½ stars ... actually more like 4.4 because I'd "rounded down" to 4 ... but then so...more
Apr 10, 2008 Stacey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: southern gothic fans, fans of slow pacing, fans of character development
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
For two weeks, I breathed and slept this book. I was reminded of Joyce Carol Oates, We were the Mulvaney's--specifically due to character development. I remember being in awe for most of We Were the Mulvaney's--the characters, and there were many, were just...intensely developed. I read a lot, and these characters were the stuff of real life: diverse, with nicknames, private histories and nuances. This novel, in the tradition of Oates, managed the same feat. Carson McCullers is in there, too--wi...more
I finished this book over a week ago but I had to think about what I wanted to say. It was just the sort of book I have been yearning for, one you can't put down and when you do you have to sort of remind yourself to return to the real world and set the characters aside when called away to, you know, work or eat. I read her other book, The Secret History, many years ago and remember liking it enough but I found The Little Friend to be much more at every level.

The author's voice is a character in...more
Stephanie Davies
Donna Tartt’s novel The Little Friend is an excellent example of contemporary American Gothic literature. I absolutely love the character of Harriet, and actually preferred TLF to The Secret History. I realise that most people don't like the ending (or lack thereof) but I thought it was incredible, the way that Tartt underlined the whole message of the text in that last exchange. Not everything needs to be neatly resolved, and I think there are clues throughout the novel for the reader to draw h...more

With effusive high hopes, a NPR book critic recently announced one of her most anticipated releases of 2013 was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt...which got my memory banks whirring in high, has it been over 20 years since she struck it big with the literary cognoscenti with The Secret History? I thought I'd reacquaint myself with Ms. Tartt's works (all...ahem...two of them) to see if I'd share the NPR reviewer's anticipation. After re-reading The Little Friend, a sort of Old South-meets-...more
Nov 10, 2009 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2002
I knew that Tartt's first book was a sort of murder mystery, and since there's a murder in the first ten pages of this one, I expected it to be a traditional whodunit in literary clothing. It is both less and more than that, slowing talking you out of your expectations and persuading you to accept its presentation.

The book has a disconcertingly languid mood, slow like molasses. Three of the seven chapters are mostly concerned with setting the scene; of those "The Blackbird" and "The Pool Hall" b...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I bought this book without knowing a thing about it based on sale price and author recognition, Tartt is a writer whose name I remembered vaguely from the literary columns. A few days ago, realizing I needed a book for an overnight trip, I grabbed it haphazardly from my book pile while heading out the door.

I found myself quickly sucked into the story of Harriet Dufresnes, a twelve year old girl haunted by the death of her older brother, Robin, murdered when Harriet was only a baby. I was impress...more
Jun 24, 2009 ness rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to ness by: no one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I would agree that there are two reasons why people seem to like Secret History better than this book.

1. The story is not what the description makes it out to be, which can be disappointing. This is not the story of a girl searching for her brother's murderer. It is the story of a 12-year-old girl, her family and friends, and the family of the man who she has decided is her brother's killer over one summer in rural Mississippi.

2. The Secret History has many fans that saw themselves in the auste...more
It had potential and the blurb and first couple of pages captured my interest. But that was just a red herring, apparently.
I thought it was about a sweet little boy who is found hanging from a tree and how his sister Harriet (a baby at the time of his death) decides to solve the mystery of his death when she is twelve. Harriet, like Harriet the Spy, is a determined, no-nonsense type of girl any smart adult would be scared to mess with. But her relationship with her black housekeeper is straigh...more
Boy how she can write! Prose is really good, and when it comes to setting the mood, she [Tartt] is unparalleled. I have a little problem with how the story ended though. Just when you'd realize everyone was stuck in the rut because of 'the accident' and you would get teary eyed because of the prose- the ending would scratch you in the eye. And NO you cannot cry because someone scratched you in the eye, you'd be furious!

It was like eating a cookie with all the necessary ingredients, but crumbles...more
I absolutely loved what I guess could be called the 'domestic' part of this book -- Harriet's solitude, the interaction of family members and between friends, the descriptive passages that ring so true about things like a sudden rainstorm. What I didn't like as much was the fantastical (yet full of realism), violent part of the plot involving a child (near the end), though I still found it all quite readable, esp for the descriptions of the things 'around' the plot -- the rendering of feelings a...more
Margaret B.
I've finally finished this book after starting and stopping it for seven years. It was evocative in a 1970s-era Southern gothic way and really made you as the reader feel like you were living in this small Mississippi town along with the characters, however, it was so slow-moving as to almost be called boring. It's character-driven the first 75% of the book, and the last 25%, the plot finally kicks in, but at that point, it's almost too late. Tartt frustratingly never resolves the central myster...more
The spunky girl child who does not conform to the world around her. Even before Scout Finch came along, she was a popular figure in children’s literature (Jo; Pippi; Anne; etc.) She is a widely beloved figure, and probably rightly so. Even though I never had much to do with Jo or Pippi or Anne, I love Scout Finch very much. (“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”) And perhaps girls are especially in need of role models whose charm resides in their d...more
How much love can you give a book in which nothing really happens? A little boy is murdered at the beginning, his mother, sisters, and aunts cope with the tragedy in various ways, his younger sister takes it upon herself to try to solve the crime, and everyone sort of moseys along towards an unsatisfying end. That said, it was a real kick to read anyway. The book itself was thick with teeny type. It took me days & days to get through it because I dipped in & out, moseying along myself am...more
Scott Wojtalik-courter
I wish that I had known about Goodreads when I read this novel because then I may have been able to summon a proper review/critique/description of this novel. I bought this book at a used book store solely based on the dust jacket and brief teaser on the inside flap. A boy hangs himself from a tree in his front yard on his birthday, and his sister attempts to discover why some years later. I put off reading it, because it is a lengthy book (not really; lengthy for an untried author), and I didn'...more
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Donna Tartt (born 23 December 1963) is an American writer who received critical acclaim for her first two novels, The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2002). Tartt was the 2003 winner of the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend.

The daughter of Don and Taylor Tartt, she was born in Greenwood, Mississippi but raised 32 miles away in Grenada, Mississippi. At age five, she wrote h...more
More about Donna Tartt...
The Goldfinch The Secret History The Secret History & The Little Friend A Christmas Pageant The Ambush

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“Even if it meant that she had failed, she was glad. And if what she'd wanted had been impossible from the start, still there was a certain lonely comfort in the fact that she'd known it was impossible and had gone ahead and done it anyway.” 38 likes
“The possible, as it was presented in her Health textbook (a mathematical progression of dating, "career," marriage, and motherhood), did not interest Harriet. Of all the heroes on her list, the greatest of them all was Sherlock Holmes, and he wasn’t even a real person. Then there was Harry Houdini. He was the master of the impossible; more importantly, for Harriet, he was a master of escape. No prison in the world could hold him: he escaped from straitjackets, from locked trunks dropped in fast rivers and from coffins buried six feet underground.

And how had he done it? He wasn’t afraid. Saint Joan had galloped out with the angels on her side but Houdini had mastered fear on his own. No divine aid for him; he’d taught himself the hard way how to beat back panic, the horror of suffocation and drowning and dark. Handcuffed in a locked trunk in the bottom of a river, he squandered not a heartbeat on being afraid, never buckled to the terror of the chains and the dark and the icy water; if he became lightheaded, for even a moment, if he fumbled at the breathless labor before him– somersaulting along a river-bed, head over heels– he would never come up from the water alive.

A training program. This was Houdini’s secret.”
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