I was excited to read The Little Friend. It’s no secret that I’m a Donna Tartt fan girl. The Secret History had me singing its praises for weeks. The Goldfinch had me staying up until 4am desperately wanting to know the end.
My friend visited me in Seoul and gave me her recently-finished copy of The Little Friend. She didn’t say it was the best thing she’d ever read, but Tartt can do no wrong! I kept putting off reading it as it’s a veritable tome, stretching over 500 pages. I am aiming for 25 books this year, so didn’t want to spend months slogging through something. Once I’d reached 8 books I gave it a go!
What Is The Little Friend About?
Unlike The Goldfinch, The Little Friend is far smaller in scope. It follows a nine-year old girl, Harriet, during her summer holidays. The story begins when a prologue describing her brother’s death at a family gathering. Initially, I assumed Tartt would focus on this event, but it recedes slowly throughout the book. The story instead follows Harriet’s sleuthing to discover her brother’s killer. The story focuses on her family and their own problems, as well as the suspect she is following.
The story is very small, with few large events occurring. This book is instead concerned with the everyday events we concern ourselves with. Tartt employs first-person perspective while maintaining her third-person narration. This is something that Tartt does very well.
What I Liked
The Little Friend is a display of what Tartt does best. She describes feelings and emotions beautifully, creating complex and relatable characters. As with The Goldfinch, Tartt adopts the voice of a child and manages to do so convincingly. I could see much of my younger self in the thoughts and attitudes of Harriet.
Tartt juxtaposes this with Harriet’s grandmother, Edie, and her prime suspect, Danny. This creates a rich tapestry of characters, each with their unique voices and concerns. I found myself engrossed in characters talking about things that were incredibly mundane, which for me is the mark of good writing.
What I Wasn’t So Keen On
However good the author, 500 pages is a long time to be talking about nothing in particular. While there is an overarching storyline, I don’t feel it was compelling enough to keep the book going for so long. In my opinion, Tartt could’ve told this story in half the words and still had a great story.
My other issue with this novel was its limited perspective. Tartt keeps within the confines of a small American town in Mississippi. While I understand what she’s doing here, and to an extent it does work, it just doesn’t make exciting reading. Perhaps if I was American I would feel differently, but I struggled to relate to lots of it. Interestingly, her next novel was The Goldfinch which spans states and continents, is perhaps TOO large in its scope (basically, I’m never happy!)
Overall, I liked this book, but didn’t love it! It was a nice idea and executed well. As with all Tartt’s novels, the actual writing was exquisite. Even with this, it was still hard to ignore the fact that it was just a bit boring! Tartt should’ve shortened this novel by at least 150 words to ensure it was compelling to read!
Have you read The Little Friend? How did you think it compares to Tartt’s other novels?