15 September, 2014

Book Review: The Little Friend

From Goodreads: Bestselling author Donna Tartt returns with a grandly ambitious and utterly riveting novel of childhood, innocence and evil.
The setting is Alexandria, Mississippi, where one Mother’s Day a little boy named Robin Cleve Dufresnes was found hanging from a tree in his parents’ yard. Twelve years later Robin’s murder is still unsolved and his family remains devastated. So it is that Robin’s sister Harriet - unnervingly bright, insufferably determined, and unduly influenced by the fiction of Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson--sets out to unmask his killer. Aided only by her worshipful friend Hely, Harriet crosses her town’s rigid lines of race and caste and burrows deep into her family’s history of loss.

Thoughts: A couple of years ago, stuck on the couch with a broken leg, I read The Secret History. I really enjoyed, but knew it had been an intense read. That, coupled with the fact that The Little Friend was so big has put me off reading it. However, as part of my TBR Spring Clean Challenge, I picked it up and started. So much of what I loved about The Secret History was there - solid characters, wonderful descriptions, a building of suspense. Again, a dense, attention demanding read, but enjoyable, thought provoking. Tartt sets you down in the middle of a sweltering Mississippi town and takes you into the lives of two very different families. The Cleves - a dysfunctional middle class family of some standing in the town; a family which has never recovered from the suspicious death of Robin a the age of 9. The Ratliffs - a family of four poverty stricken, drug addled brothers and their grandma. You can smell the different houses, see the different people as you read. The story slowly brings parts these two families together as Harriet spends her summer trying to solve the murder of her brother over 10 years ago.
I loved the writing. Tartt is a vivid story teller but (and it's a big but) the story just stops! Nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing - is resolved at the end! While I also detest books where everything is tied up in a neat bow at the end, this type of ending is equally frustrating. It truly felt like she had a word limit, she reached it and stopped. Not quite mid sentence, but it may as well have been!  I actually checked to see if there were pages missing.
Maybe it's me - maybe I'm the one missing something, but to say I was disappointed by the end of this is a major understatement. I felt betrayed (the book is 555 pages of small type) and abandoned. I'd formed an attachment to Harriet and her struggle. I needed to know she would be ok, but there is nothing to hold onto. Nothing to give you hope, nothing to suggest that the summer changes any thing at all for her or the Ratliffs. Disappointing.