Tag Archive: Donna Tartt


Donna Tartt’s worst novel

THE LITTLE FRIEND by Donna Tartt (Vintage Book, 2002)

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A creepy cover but, like the novel itself, I have no idea what it is meant to signify,

“The only thing keeping this book together is the binding” quipped one reviewer on Good Reads. It’s an exaggeration but I understand where this reader is coming from.

Donna Tartt’s second novel begins,like her first and third, with a violent death. The sister of a dead boy, Harriet,  vows to find out what happened. She’s a gutsy, unconventional young woman and the strength of this character raises hopes that this might be a tight and nail-biting murder mystery or at least a gothic melodrama of sorts.

It is neither.

The main failing is that the tightness and control displayed so brilliantly in The Secret History is absent. Instead, the looseness that made the conclusion of The Goldfinch such a disappointment is all too present.

When Donna Tartt is writing about domestic dramas she is good at exposing “the tiny flaws and snags in the thread of reality” and creates tension in the most mundane of family situations. When she tries to write about characters from the wrong side of the tracks the credibility factor begins to falter. Drug dealers and violent delinquents are not her forte. Long passages here try desperately to create a Dickensian sweep involving good vs evil; right vs wrong but end up being merely sprawling and unfocused.

It picks up briefly towards the end with a couple of good action sequences but by then I’d ceased caring.

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THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt (First published 1992)

 Donna Tartt’s remarkable debut novel begins boldly with a chilling description of the murder of Edmund ‘Bunny’ Corcoran.

We immediately how this young man dies and who kills him. What we don’t know is why he was murdered and what the consequences of this act will be, Book I takes us through the events leading to the crime while Book II deals with the fall out from the killing.

Despite Tartt’s dramatic prologue, I confess there were times initially when I found her claustrophobic narrative style hard going. However, she more than rewards perseverance and once the story kicks in at the beginning of Book II, I was well and truly hooked. Continue reading

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown, 2013)

After her two previous bestsellers, Donna Tartt is in the enviable position of being able to call all the shots with any publisher.

She is like an esteemed movie director who knows her work is never going to be subjected to unwanted cuts.

Moreover, she has established herself a writer who works slowly and meticulously, preferring quality to quantity.

A book every decade is her current rate of production and she expresses no desire to change this. She says she’ll be content if her life work consists of five big novels.

Constant rewriting and self editing are among the reasons why she is not more prolific. In a recent BBC interview, Tartt describes how she decided to scrub 8 months work after realising she had taken the plot down a wrong track.

You can well imagine why, after labouring for so long, she would resist any further editing suggestions. However, I can’t help feeling that this degree of total control is a double-edged sword. The Goldfinch is a novel that cries out for some bold editing and in my view it is at least 200 pages too long. Continue reading

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