The Little Friend
By Donna Tartt
Completed January 21, 2012
I am a sucker for books set in the American South. Stories with sweet tea and back porches feel like home. That’s why I was eager to read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. Set in Mississippi, The Little Friend seemed to be the perfect book with all the right ingredients; however, by the midway point of this novel, I knew I was knee deep in a clunker.
The edition of The Little Friend that I read was more than 600 pages, and in my opinion, it could have been half that length. The beginning of the book starts out promising. Tartt introduces us to Harriet, a precocious girl who has a strong spirit. We meet her mother, sister and a gaggle of great aunts – all of whom were interesting characters. We also meet Hely (pronounced Healy), who is Harriet’s best friend and partner in crime. Quickly, we see that Harriet wants to learn more about the strange and sudden death of her older brother, and she sets her sights on a local man as a possible murder suspect.
Three hundred pages later, we’re no further along in the plot then we were in the first chapter. Tartt’s tangents were pleasant at first, but by the middle of the book, I wanted to get on with the story.
Finally, Tartt delivers us the inevitable “stand-off,” and perhaps I was exhausted or bored or impatient – but the whole ending seemed too far-fetched. After a 600-page investment, I wanted something in return. Sadly, I was disappointed.
On the plus side, though, I commend Tartt for her vivid writing style. Her sentences were beautiful, and she eloquently depicted her characters and setting. It’s a shame that the beauty of her writing got lost in a tangled yarn.
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2003, The Little Friend has received many accolades, so please be sure to consult other reviews. This just wasn’t the book for me. ( )