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Worth the Wait

A decade after her first hit novel, The Secret History, Donna Tartt is back.


Donna Tartt admits that it has been annoying during the past decade to have people rudely insinuate that she is a one-book phenomenon. "A lot of people thought that, and they said it to my face," she says. "But you just know that you're working silently, and I was happy with what I was writing." Now Tartt, author of The Secret History, the best-selling 1992 campus thriller, has produced a radically different novel, The Little Friend, a coming-of-age story that takes place in her native South. With a first printing of 300,000, Knopf is marketing the novel as a major fall event -- Sheeeee's back! -- and Tartt, now 38, is braced to leave her two refuges (an Upper East Side apartment and a snake-infested Virginia farm) for the book-tour circuit. "Growing up in Mississippi, I saw such immense change," she says. "The civil-rights movement was happening; I saw the old attitudes fade away." Set in the seventies, The Little Friend chronicles that changing world with a plot that centers on the mysterious murder of a 9-year-old boy and his sister's efforts a dozen years later to solve the crime. "I didn't have to rush," Tartt says, and while she's hoping that her next, already started novel won't take as long, she sounds philosophical: "If it takes ten years to put out another branch, so be it."

The Little Friend
by Donna Tartt
(Knopf; November).

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