The Little Friend
- Reviewed by Charis Scott-Holm
- Published on July 21st, 2011 at 3:29p.m.
12 year old Harriet Dufresnes has been brought up in a household of sadness and neglect- not a poor family, or an abusive one, but one pulled apart by the brutal murder of her older brother when she was just a baby.
A precocious girl- clever and unflinching- Harriet decides to succeed where the police failed, in catching her brother's murderer.
The second of just two novels by the talented Donna Tartt, 'The Little Friend' is essentially a Southern Gothic novel, which explores themes of race, class, religion and family in deep-south small-town America, all in mesmerising, dark detail.
Every detail of the tiny town is described- from the crumbling unfinished highway to the faded high street and gawdy new complexes- and you become utterly immersed in the violent underworld Harriet discovers- in snake wielding preachers, hillbilly drug dealers, and in the silence and loneliness which dictate her home life.
Once this book gets into the swing of it you won't be able to put it down- it races to a heart wrenching conclusion where two families- the well to do 'old money' Dufresnes' and Cleves- and 'redneck' Ratliffes- lives collide.
As much a book about the dynamics of families and how they change with trauma as a revenge thriller, the sadness that fills the lives of all involved clouds every page and seeps through in moments of dark humour and dark realisations.
Harriet is a favourite character of mine and even through the desperate times I find myself crying 'don't do it!' silently into the book, I still fiercely wish her on until the very last page.
A thrilling, if in some places slightly unbelievable book, my only wish is that the story didn't take so long to get into, the start could be reduced by a good 100 pages.
My advice is to stick with it and you will be suitably rewarded, a book with so much heart and spark and with so much to say, it will leave you gripped until the end and thinking about the story long after you've put it down.