Thursday, 13 September 2012

Book #23

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
 Although the Cleves generally revelled in every detail of their family history, the events of 'the terrible Mother's Day' were never, ever discussed. On that day, nine-year-old Robin Cleves, loved by all for his whims and peculiarities, was found hanging by the neck from a rope slung over a black-tupelo tree in his own garden. Eleven years later, the mystery - with its taunting traces of foul play - was no nearer a solution than it had been on the day it happened. This isn't good enough for Robin's youngest sister Harriet. Only a baby when the tragedy occurred, but now twelve-years-old and steeped in the adventurous daring of favourite writers such as Stevenson, Kipling and Conan Doyle, Harriet is ready and eager to find and punish her brother's killer.

This was bloody awful. I hated every single paragraph, yet blustered through trying to get somewhere with it. I really feel like I missed something, and I am absolutely baffled as to what it could be.

I spent far too much time on this. It is five hundred (ish) pages of eloquent sentences describing absolutely nothing. The plot drifts along aimlessly, your eyes glaze over as you think about what's for dinner, and you begin to absolutely loathe every single character. I kept reading as I was sure this dullness had to go somewhere; the novel started off with murder, so surely a fantastic climactic ending was coming? No. If I hadn't been on a Balearic beach at the time of reading the final sentence, I would have screamed in frustration. Nothing is resolved, confirmed, or denied. I'd have been better off spending two weeks reading The Hungry Caterpillar back to back. At least it’s a book with a message.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the prose. It was vivid and picturesque; just totally pointless plot-wise. Imagine someone who loves the sound of their own voice telling you a long story about their trip to Mississippi. If someone had come along and ripped out ten pages or so at random intervals throughout the book, it would have had no impact whatsoever. Although I understand now that the book is more of a study of Harriet's character than a murder mystery, it doesn’t dull the blow of my sheer disappointment, not only at the climax, but during the whole sorry affair. Those justifying the book as a 'reading experience' certainly have a point: the atmospherics and lyrical prose are wonderful, but 500 plus pages of rambling nonsense is just a bit over the top.

I felt so cheated by the plot: it whisked me miles from where I wanted to go, rather than bringing me to it. This book has now tainted The Secret History for me; a book I have been recommended many times. I doubt I will ever read it due to the way this abomination has made me feel about Tartt. It really is a shame.

Please don't go near this book: it will suffocate you.

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