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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2002

After ten-year wait, new Donna Tartt novel finally hits bookstores

Nov. 1, 2002

The wait is over.

In 1992, first-time novelist Donna Tartt took the publishing world by storm when her novel The Secret History became a surprise best-seller. The novel, set in a New England college town rocked by a shocking murder, instantly established Tartt as one of those rarities in the publishing world: a writer who achieves both popular and critical success on the first try.

Then … nothing. Fans who eagerly awaited her next novel had to settle for occasional fiction or nonfiction pieces published in periodicals such as Harper’s or listen to her radio appearance on NPR on the topic of Gothic literature. Fan web sites speculated, when would we see the next Donna Tartt novel?

That wait is finally over, as Knopf Publishers have just released The Little Friend, Tartt’s second novel.

At first glance, it seems quite different from her earlier work. Instead of pastoral New England, The Little Friend is set in a small Mississippi. Rather than characters deeply versed in classical Roman and Greek, here the characters include virtual prototypes of the southern redneck akin to William Faulkner’s Snopes family.

Still, both novels feature a gruesome murder, and it is the exploration of that dark side of humanity that Tartt chooses to highlight in both novels.

“I’m interested less in the act of murder itself than in what drives people to it, and the echoes and repercussions of the act,” Tartt says in an interview published on the Knopf web site.

Critics for the most part have responded favorably to the new novel. Reviewer A. O. Scott in the New York Times Book Review notes resemblance between Harriett, the twelve-year-old protagonist of the novel who sets out to avenge the murder of her brother twelve years earlier, and other classic heroines of southern literature, including Caddy in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, and Frankie in The Member of the Wedding, characters to whom she is linked “by deeper affinities of temperament—by a fierce, adolescent sense of right and wrong and by the dangerous habit of sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.”

To publicize the novel, Tartt will be traveling around the country to make appearances, including stops in New York Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, California, Washington, and of course, Mississippi. Her full tour schedule is available on the Knopf web site.

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