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The Little Friend

April 22, 2010


Usually I don’t post on books that I don’t like, but I’m curious if any of you have read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, and what you thought.

When my professor introduced the book as a long, gothic murder mystery with a child protagonist, I was sure I’d like it. And I’m not quite sure why I didn’t. It’s not the book’s length (my copy has 500+ pages), or density (very, very dense), or intertextuality (lots of it), as these aspects are usually a draw for me. I liked about the first 50 pages, but after that, I just didn’t care any more. The book has so many levels of meaning, so many references and allusions, and numerous interesting characters. So, I don’t know what it was. I just stopped caring, which made the last 450+ pages very tedious.

In class, my professor said that Tartt wrote the book as a look at the dark side of innocence. Having studied historical and literary conceptions of childhood all semester, this makes The Little Friend more interesting to me… but not enough to recommend it. There are countless other books that I’m guessing you would enjoy more and that would take up 1/5th of your time. And, if you like closure, this book is *definitely* not for you.

Here is the Publishers Weekly summary:

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. [Harriet…] 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. […] 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.

I wanted to really like this book. Tartt is a great writer, and I can see why other people might really like it. It just didn’t work for me. Have you read it? What did you think?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2010 8:55 am

    I’m similar to you in that don’t really like to do a bad review i.e. be negative about a book however they can cause the more interesting discussions. Especially if you get someone replying who liked the book.

  2. June 6, 2010 4:22 pm

    Oh that´s too bad you didn´t like it, I really love this book. But if you don´t enjoy a book it´s still good to write a review. It´s very interesting how differently people think about the same book.
    It probably doesn´t make for lively discussion that I enjoyed everything about this work, from the writing style to the story. I was a bit confused at the ending and thought maye I just didn´t get it, but I´ve reread it since and have embraced that aspect as well 🙂

    I´m a bit hesitant too recommend it, but have you tried What Was Lost by Catherine O´Flynn? It also has a great child narrator, in one of the two story lines of the book, and the rest is a take on shopping malls and a mystery. It´s also not too long 🙂

  3. June 7, 2010 6:38 pm

    No, thanks for the comment! I really like hearing from people who had different reactions to a book than I did. And thanks for the (semi-?) recommendation 🙂 I’ve never heard of What Was Lost but I looked it up and it seems interesting. I’ll add it to my summer list!

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