Recommended by Patty
Okay, so you’ve read “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. Or maybe you couldn’t make it through that weighty tome. Either way, time to reach back to Tartt’s previous efforts. Even if you couldn’t take on “The Goldfinch”, try her other books. They’re so worth it. (Also, Goldfinch: 771 pgs. Her other books: about 560 pgs.)
Tartt wrote her first novel, “The Secret History”, while still in her twenties and when it was published in 1992, it quickly became a bestseller. This story of a tight group of friends at an elite eastern university features the strongly imagined characters and twisty-turny plot Tartt has become known for. So spooky, the characters stayed in my mind for weeks after I finished it.
It took Tartt a decade to produce her second book, “The Little Friend”, and this one is much more accessible. It’s a fantastically well-written rendering of childhood in the rural South (think Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”). Is Tartt actually still a child? You’d think so the way she perfectly imagines the thoughts and days of her 11-year-old character.
But, warning! This book is also extremely frustrating. Don’t go looking it up on Goodreads. You’ll run smack into the angry hordes who loved the book and were really ticked off with Tartt by the end.
Me too. Even so, I highly recommend this book, because of writing like this:
“There were not many men in the Cleve family and headstrong, masculine activities such as tree pruning (and) household repair… had for the most part fallen to her. She did this cheerfully, with a brisk confidence that was the wonder of her timid sisters. None of them could even drive a car; and poor Aunt Libby was so afraid of appliances and mechanical apparatus of all sorts that she wept at the prospect of lighting a gas heater or changing a light bulb. Though they were intrigued by the camera, they were also wary of it, and they admired their sister’s breezy daring in handling this manly contraption that had to be loaded and aimed and shot like a gun.”
And descriptions like this, about some seashells collected on a long-ago vacation:
“ ‘They lose their magic when they’ve been out of the water awhile,’ Libby said; and she’d run the bathroom sink full of water, poured the shells in and pulled over a step-stool for Harriet to stand on. And how surprised she had been to see that uniform gray washed bright and slick and magical, broken into a thousand tinkling colors: empurpled here, soaked there to mussel-black, fanned into ribs and spiraling into delicate polychrome whorls… “Smell!” Libby said. “That’s what the ocean smells like!”
IMO, Tartt is worth getting ticked off over.