51. ‘The Little Friend’ by Donna Tartt

The photo above is the message Mum wrote in the front of this copy when she sent it to me in Australia in 2003. Published in 2002, ten long years of waiting since Mum and I had both bought ‘The Secret History’ in Trafalgar Square…and both loved it.

It reads ‘Remember when we bought her first book? This is her second. I hope you haven’t read it – its The Best! Love you, Mum X’

So, although this isn’t Mum’s copy – I believe one of my sisters has that – it is pretty special! As indeed is all of this authors writing, even though there is an inevitable, it seems, wait of ten years between books; I’m looking forward to seeing something in around 2022, and will miss being able to discuss it with Mum.

What is it all about? This time, the author takes us into a small Deep Southern Baptist town in the Sixties, where ten years previously, a much loved ten year old boy was found hanging from a tree in the family back yard, an event which has left his family of mostly women reeling. HIs sister, the stubborn, bookish, and decidedly tomboyish Harriet, was a baby at the time and has grown up with the ghost of Robin – ten years have passed, and at 12, she and her trusty sidekick, Hely, who adores her, set out one summer to track down the culprit.

A broad stage of characters, from Harriet’s afflicted mother and Aunts, to a family of meth addicts living in a trailer, (the Grandma is astonishing!), to a tattooed snake wielding preacher – the snakes themselves play a role too – keeps you turning the pages, and you almost feel the heat and lethargy of a sleepy Southern summer, hear the creaks and squeaks of the children bicycles, and yearn for an iced tea as you read on a porch…

I loved especially the immediate family – and Ida, the coloured housekeeper who has kept the family reasonably functional for years. The Aunts are marvellous, especially when they go on a road trip. The decaying colonial plantation house in the family history, the new sub-division where the children go to find snakes, the garden and the tree itself, are all described beautifully.

It is a cracker of a book; both Mum and I thought so, even though it did get a few rather average reviews when it was released – I guess The Secret History was so flipping good, it would have been hard to match – but, I thought she did it, I almost prefer this to the History.

As always, I am hoping to be able to gift this marvellous read forward. Please, get in touch either here or (preferably!) find Mums books on Facebook or Instagram, and I will send it to you with love from both Mum and I. I admit, there will be a pang parting with this…but I am on a mission!