Donna Tartt has only written a couple of novels in her career. I adore, adore, adore The Secret History and didn’t read The Little Friend. This one is narrated by Theo Decker; he’s taken to a museum early in the book and three unforgettable, life-changing things happen: he encounters an elderly stranger, his mother dies in an act of random violence, and he encounters a tiny painting of a goldfinch. These events will ripple across his life for decades. To say more would be criminal; this book isn’t exactly a mystery or a thriller, but Tartt, as she did in The Secret History, uses elements of those genres to create a gripping page-turner. The characterizations are nothing short of splendid; characters like Theo’s burnout friend Boris or the neurotic Kitsey Barbour or Theo’s unstable dad will just be with me for the rest of my life, I think. And Tartt’s prose is as astonishing as I remember it being. Even when it seemed there was little narrative drive, Tartt’s gorgeous prose absolutely sucked me into the lives of these characters in a beautiful and wonderful way. It’s a long book, at nearly 800 pages, and it spans decades and sprawls across continents. It’s nothing short of fantastic and it comes with my highest recommendation. 4 stars.
tl;dr – sprawling epic traces the life of Theo Decker and the misadventures of a small, beautiful painting; gorgeous prose, amazing characterization, twisting plot all add up to one word: masterpiece. 4 stars.