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The Little Friend

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  54,386 ratings  ·  4,988 reviews
The second novel by Donna Tartt, bestselling author of The Goldfinch (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize), The Little Friend is 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
Kindle Edition, 642 pages
Published October 19th 2011 by Vintage (first published October 22nd 2002)
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Nóinín It's not supposed to be a murder mystery. The hat found on Libby's bed is not a clue, it's a portent: placing a hat on your bed is supposed to be very…moreIt's not supposed to be a murder mystery. The hat found on Libby's bed is not a clue, it's a portent: placing a hat on your bed is supposed to be very inauspicious, said to invoke bad luck, injury or even death.
Did you happen to notice that at some point Danny, too, finds a hat lying on his bed - and look what happened to him.
To me, the open ending was very satisfactory, symbolic of real life, which rarely, if ever, provides the answers for everything that happens to us.(less)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  54,386 ratings  ·  4,988 reviews

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Barry Pierce
The only thing keeping this novel together is the binding.
Apr 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 20, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ugh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Part one: while reading it...
This is what you call a 'slow read'. It is impossible to race thru these pages. That is why I had two prior unsuccessful attempts to read this book. An impatient mood is not a good mindset to read this one. But I loved The Secret History and I just know that Donna Tartt is a good writer. You just have to have quiet time on your hands to read this one. So I'm taking my time with this one and it's rewarding. The descriptions Donna Tartt uses are long and sometimes it
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i love DTs writing with every fibre of my being, but i have to be honest - the low average rating/poor reviews for this book had pushed me away from reading it for the longest time - i didnt want to ruin my high opinion of DT. fortunately, i didnt hate this like i thought i would!

this is not without its faults, however, and i would consider this to be a minor sophomore slump of a novel. i agree that the length is much too long for this particular story, with slow pacing and unnecessary details l
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
A Southern tale set in small town Mississippi shows the wreckage left behind after a beloved son, grandson, and brother, Robin, is murdered in his own front yard. Evoking a little of Scout Finch, and a little of Flavia de Luce (child sleuth from Alan Bradley's books), Harriet Cleve Dufresnes decides to solve her big brother's unresolved death. Despite her innocence and youth, Harriet is deadly serious and doesn't mess around. This isn't a 'cute' story despite its childish heroine.

There's so much
Violet wells
Donna Tartt always gives me more information than I need. Two people will be talking and you get a description of all the furniture in the room, a description of what's on TV, a description of what's going on outside the window, sometimes a memory, sometimes a dream before the dialogue is resumed. Thus it can take pages for two characters to exchange four lines of dialogue. In this novel she also gives me too many characters.

As always with Tartt it’s crime that motors this novel. In particular
Michael Finocchiaro
Donna Tartt's second novel (I am working my way backwards from The Goldfinch). While I am still puzzled as to who is the "little friend" referred to in the title (Hely?) and the choreography of the end at the water tank was confusing, nonetheless this was an exciting page-turner and I feel that the protagonist Harriet was compelling. I loved her curiosity, her brilliance, and her spunk - she is not one to be double-crossed. The evocation of Alexandria, Mississippi reminded me greatly of my child ...more
Lord Beardsley
Sep 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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
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
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-deserved-it
This is not The Secret History and definitely not The Goldfinch but that doesn’t justify the low rating and negative reviews on here. Well, actually, just by thinking that a novel like The Goldfinch doesn’t even have a 4 star rating on average says a lot, not about the novel itself but about its readers, and this takes me to one of the biggest problems about sites like Goodreads: the hype and the fact that it seems like a lot of people have no idea which books and authors might or might not work ...more
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Well, that was a huge disappointment. I had heard this was generally the least loved of Donna Tartt's novels, but I went into it expecting to like it a bit more than most because I adore her work. But no, sadly this was a big letdown. Overall this book just left me very confused. How did she go from such an atmospheric, well-written novel as The Secret History to this? And then to come up with the masterpiece, The Goldfinch? I just don't get how she is the same author of this book.

The writing
donna tartt could write a 900-pager about southwestern agricultural trends in the first half of the nineteenth century and i'd be like...sign me up ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prelim. Review (aka, a personal steam valve):

Well, I declare! I just don't know what Donna Tartt did to open the floodgates to venom for her last 2 novels: The Goldfinch, preceded by The Little Friend.

I say this not to gripe about your subjective opinion that you found The Little Friend boring, you detested the subject matter, or you simply dislike Donna Tartt's writing style or personality.

Intelligent people don't quibble over such matters, since opinions are like a__holes. I am also not
Lauren Lastrapes
Mar 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
jaime ⭐️
too many racial slurs for a book that’s not related to race and written by a white woman in the 90s. dnf’ing at 52 pages lol
I listened to this book on audio and would like to comment first that the narrator was excellent and gave a huge boost to the atmosphere of the Mississippi setting.
And the book had tremendous atmosphere. Donna Tartt has proven that she can set a scene with the best of them. She can also write a great character and Harriet in particular is superb. In fact another book focussing on her as a teenager or an adult would be great!
My problem stemmed from my interest in Harriet and her family. I was fas
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Tartt's earlier books published before her acclaimed The Goldfinch. The same complexity and richness of character, the same explosion of detail that makes The Goldfinch so memorable can be found in a slightly less orderly way. Less orderly in the sense that this book didn't quite have the tight narrative structure where there is little that is told that is not important to the story. This book could have lost fifty or so pages without it affecting the plot line. But who cares, rea ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2003
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
Jun 14, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.

(Full disclosure: book abandoned at page 226 [out of 555 pages].)

The Little Friend starts strong, with distinct, even lovable characters--and protagonist Harriet is the most interesting of all--but 141 pages in, it loses its footing. Readers should be forewarned that despite The Little Friend’s summary, this isn’t a murder mystery. The mysterious murder is a background concern, a persistent nagging on the edge of twelve-year-old Harriet’s consciousness. The story is really about
Jerry Balzano
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, re-read
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
B the BookAddict
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: me, aren't I clever

The really bad news about this book is that I have finished it!

The really good news is that it goes straight into my bury me with this book bookshelf.

An absolute busting-out-of-itself 5★
I've owned my copy of this book for years. I think something in me must've just known it was the right time to read it. I read one chapter a night for a week – this book is 555 pages, and there are only six chapters, so really each chapter is more like a novella. I read it through a heatwave; unusual weather for where I live. This atmosphere – the heavy, hot air that paradoxically conjures up a feeling of perpetual restlessness, and that inevitably reminds you of childhood summers – seemed a per ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 2017
This was far too big a book for this story. Just loads of unnecessary description and background about certain things. It was very slow but i still enjoyed the story. I would read another book by Donna Tartt as I've heard the others are far superior to this. ...more
Peter Boyle
It's too long. I think that's fair enough to say. But there are several moments in The Little Friend when Donna Tartt reminds us of a what a magnificent writer she really is - when her characters come alive and their deeply-considered thoughts tell us so much about the world we live in.

The story begins with a child's murder. Little Robin Cleve Dufresnes is found hanging from a tree in his back yard. Twelve years later we discover the enormous toll it has taken on the family. His devastated mothe
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Donna Tartt is an American writer who received critical acclaim for her first two novels, The Secret History and The Little Friend, which have been translated into thirty languages. Tartt was the 2003 winner of the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend. Her novel The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014.

The daughter of Don and Taylor Tartt, she was born in Greenwood, Mississippi but r

Articles featuring this book

The Great American Novel is something of a moving target. The term, used to describe a work of fiction that accurately shows the...
66 likes · 109 comments
“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.” 94 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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