Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: The Little Friend

Remember when I reviewed Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter?  And I wrote about how it got so many undeserved comparisons to great Southern authors like Flannery O'Connor and Harper Lee?  This book deserves those comparisons.  It's the perfect mixture of the two and an excellent Southern Gothic.  It is set in the 1970's in the rural South and our main character is twelve year old Harriet, who has decided to solve the murder that defines her family.  When Harriet was an infant, her brother Robin was murdered in the yard as he played and Harriet is determined to exact revenge.  

Brilliant.  I loved Tartt's descriptions of the South.  I'm not usually a huge fan of overly descriptive writing, but I felt like Tartt did a great job of setting a scene that you could feel like you were a part of without boring you to death with wordiness.  I also LOVED every single one of the characters, even the detestable ones.  In contrast to what I thought was a one-dimensional view of the South in Crooked Letter, The Little Friend has great depictions of both the raw and gritty side of rural Southern life and the endearing aspects. 

And don't even get me started on the characters.  All of them are amazingly real and incredibly detailed.  Harriet, of course, was the star - she reminded me very much of Scout, except without the influence of Atticus.  She's endearing and frustrating and honestly frightening in her determination to kill the man she thinks murdered her brother.  And even the "bad" characters are believable and sympathetic in their own ways.  

Entertainment Value
Excellent.  I was sucked in and enjoyed every minute of the read.  I actually found it online through my school's library, so I was able to read during my down times at work - and found myself really resenting having to do actual work instead of reading.  Looking through other reviews, the main complaint I see is that the story does not end neatly.  If it were a murder-mystery then I would agree that the lack of a tidy ending detracts from the story.  But this isn't a murder mystery, it's a Southern Gothic, and the point of the book is not to find out the "who-dunnit".  So if you're looking for a thriller or a tidy little mystery, this is not the one for you.  It's literary and detailed and beautifully written and tells a beautiful story - just not a neat story all wrapped up tidily at the end.  I cannot recommend it highly enough. 


  1. Julie this sounds very good to me, I love Southern books, not those alone, but in a mix of much more. I'll be adding this one to my long long list.

  2. I never read this one because I rarely see or hear about it, so I figured it must suck compared to The Secret History. Your review has made me want to read it!

  3. Kenpen (and everyone else of course)- I really think you'll enjoy it. I can't compare to The Secret History because I haven't read that one yet, but on it's own this one is awesome.