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The Little Friend
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This new edition in a beautiful new cover makes it perfect for summer readingWinner of the prestigious WH Smith Literary Award 2003 Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2003

About the Author

Donna Tartt is a novelist, essayist and critic. Her first novel, The Secret History, has been published in twenty-three countries.

Reviews

It has been a decade since Tartt blazed forth with The Secret History, but it was worth the wait. Set in small-town Mississippi, her new work centers on the family of Harriet Cleve, shattered forever after the murder by hanging of Harriet's nine-year-old brother, Robin, when Harriet was still a baby. Harriet's mother has withdrawn, her father has left town (though he still supports the family), and Harriet and sister Allison are essentially raised by their redoubtable grandmother, Edie, and a gaggle of aunts who, though mostly married, are ultimately "spinsters at heart." Harriet grows up an ornery and precocious child who at age 12 determines that she will finally uncover her brother's murderer. Whether or not she solves the crime is hardly the point; what matters here is the writing-dense, luscious, and exact-and Tartt's ability to reconstruct the life of this family in vivid detail. Harriet in particular is an extraordinary creation; she's a believable child who is also persuasively wise beyond her years. That debut was no fluke; highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.]-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

'In a literary age of diet and dearth, Tartt invites us to feast ... the opening tragedy strikes a note of rich, flamboyant Southern Gothic that resonates throughout' Independent 'You will rarely have read better ... Because of Tartt's mastery of suspense, this book will grip readers all the way through to its bitter end' Guardian 'Tartt's grip on this billowing plot is glue-like and her ability to evoke the Deep South of last century exceptional ... excellent, enthralling' Marie Claire, Book of the Month 'Destined to become a special kind of classic - a book that precocious young readers pluck from their parents' shelves and devour with surreptitious eagerness, thrilled to discover a writer who seems at once to read their minds and to offer up the sweet-and-sour fruits of exotic, forbidden knowledge' New York Times Book Review

Widely anticipated over the decade since her debut in The Secret History, Tartt's second novel confirms her talent as a superb storyteller, sophisticated observer of human nature and keen appraiser of ethics and morality. If the theme of The Secret History was intellectual arrogance, here it is dangerous innocence. 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. Although every character is sharply etched, 12-year-old Harriet-smart, stubborn, willful-is as vivid as a torchlight. Like many preadolescents, she's fascinated by secrets. She 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. (The Ratliff brothers are good to their grandmother, however; their solicitude at times lends the novel the antic atmosphere of a Booth cartoon.) 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. If Tartt wandered into melodrama in The Secret History, this time she's achieved perfect control over her material, melding suspense, character study and social background. Her knowledge of Southern ethos-the importance of family, of heritage, of race and class-is central to the plot, as is her take on Southerners' ability to construct a repertoire, veering toward mythology, of tales of the past. The double standard of justice in a racially segregated community is subtly reinforced, and while Tartt's portrait of the maid, Ida Rhew, evokes a stereotype, Tartt adds the dimension of bitter pride to Ida's character. In her first novel, Tartt unveiled a formidable intelligence. The Little Friend flowers with emotional insight, a gift for comedy and a sure sense of pacing. Wisely, this novel eschews a feel-good resolution. What it does provide is an immensely satisfying reading experience. (Nov. 1) Forecast: Bestsellerdom is writ large for this novel, sure to be greeted with rave reviews. The softspoken, diminutive Tartt, who looks more like a Southern belle than a writer with a dark imagination, should be an asset on talk shows. For more on Tartt, see Book News in today's issue. 300,000 first printing. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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