Donna Tartt

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Donna Tartt
Born(1963-12-23) December 23, 1963 (age 50)
Greenwood, Mississippi
OccupationFiction writer
Notable work(s)The Secret History (1992)
The Little Friend (2002)
The Goldfinch (2013)
Notable award(s)WH Smith Literary Award (2003)
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2014)
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Donna Tartt
Born(1963-12-23) December 23, 1963 (age 50)
Greenwood, Mississippi
OccupationFiction writer
Notable work(s)The Secret History (1992)
The Little Friend (2002)
The Goldfinch (2013)
Notable award(s)WH Smith Literary Award (2003)
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2014)

Donna Tartt (born December 23, 1963) is an American writer and author of the novels The Secret History (1992), The Little Friend (2002), and The Goldfinch (2013).[1] Tartt won the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend in 2003 and the Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) for The Goldfinch in 2014.

Early life[edit]

Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta, and raised in the nearby town of Grenada.   

Enrolling in the University of Mississippi in 1981, she pledged to the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. Her writing caught the attention of Willie Morris while she was a freshman. Following a recommendation from Morris, Barry Hannah, then an Ole Miss Writer-in-Residence, admitted eighteen-year-old Tartt into his graduate short story course. "She was deeply literary," says Hannah. "Just a rare genius, really. A literary star."[2] Following the suggestion of Morris and others, she transferred to Bennington College in 1982, where she was friends with fellow students Bret Easton Ellis, Jill Eisenstadt, and Jonathan Lethem, and studying classics with Claude Fredericks. She dated Ellis for a while after sharing works in progress, The Secret History and Less Than Zero respectively.[3]


The Secret History[edit]

Tartt began writing her first novel, originally titled "The God of Illusions"[4] and later published as The Secret History, during her second year at Bennington. She graduated from Bennington in 1986. After Ellis recommended her work to literary agent Amanda Urban, The Secret History was published in 1992, and sold out its original print-run of 75,000 copies, becoming a bestseller. It has been translated into 24 languages.

The Secret History is set at a fictional college and concerns a close-knit group of six students and their professor of classics. The students embark upon a secretive plan to stage a bacchanal. The narrator reflects on a variety of circumstances that lead ultimately to murder within the group.

The murder, the location and the perpetrators are revealed in the opening pages, upending the familiar framework and accepted conventions of the murder mystery genre. Critic A.O. Scott labelled it "a murder mystery in reverse."[5]

The book was wrapped in a transparent acetate book jacket, a retro design by Barbara De Wilde and Chip Kidd. According to Kidd, "The following season acetate jackets sprang up in bookstores like mushrooms on a murdered tree."[6]

The Little Friend[edit]

The Little Friend, Tartt's second novel, was published in October 2002. It is a mystery centered on a young girl living in the American South in the late 20th century. Her implicit anxieties about the long-unexplained death of her brother and the dynamics of her extended family are a strong focus, as are the contrasting lifestyles and customs of small-town Southerners.

The Goldfinch[edit]

Main article: The Goldfinch (novel)

In February 2013, the New York Observer announced that Tartt's long-awaited third novel, titled The Goldfinch, was set for publication on October 22, 2013, after originally being slated for publication in September 2008.[1] The plot is described thus: "A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets," Amazon’s description reads. "He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld. Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art."[1]

The Dutch translation of The Goldfinch, Het puttertje, was published a full month before the English edition, to overwhelmingly positive reviews.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

The Goldfinch was published in the English language by Little, Brown on 22 October 2013 [13] with the Swedish edition also publishing in October.[14] Publication in Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Spain will follow next year.[15] Early reviews from the US have praised the novel, with the trade publications Kirkus and Booklist both giving starred reviews. Kirkus describes The Goldfinch as “a standout” [16] while Booklist comments “Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art.” [17] Stephen King has also expressed admiration for the novel, writing "Donna Tartt is an amazingly good writer ... it’s very good".[18] The novel won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[19]

Other writing[edit]

As of 2002, Tartt was reportedly working on a retelling of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus for the Canongate Myth Series, a series of novellas in which ancient myths are re-imagined and re-written by contemporary authors.[20]

Literary Themes[edit]

A number of major recurring literary themes occur in Donna Tartt's novels. These include the themes of social class and social stratification, as well as guilt and aesthetic beauty. These themes are both present as important aspects of The Secret History and The Goldfinch. Another major theme in Tartt's work involves young protagonists exploring their sexuality, and the majority of her young male protagonists experiment with bisexuality, often within the context of otherwise platonic same-sex friendships.

Awards and honours[edit]


Short stories


  1. ^ a b c Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke (12 February 2013). "Donna Tartts long awaited third novel will be published this year". The New York Observer. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Lacey Galbraith (Winter 2004). "Interview: Barry Hannah, The Art of Fiction No 184". The Paris Review. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Fein, Esther B. (1992-11-16). ""The Marketing of a Cause Celebre" - The New York Times". Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  5. ^ Scott, A.O. "Harriet the Spy," New York Times, November 3, 2002.
  6. ^ "Jacobs, Alexandra. "Kidd Keeps Knopf Cool, Wrapping Books Gorgeously" New York Observer, Nov. 6, 2005". 2005-11-06. Retrieved 2014-04-29. 
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  18. ^ Daily News (New York) |url= missing title (help). 
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  20. ^ "''Independent'': "Whatever happened to Donna Tartt?"". Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  21. ^ Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  22. ^ Admin (January 14, 2014). "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  23. ^ Mark Brown (7 April 2014). "Donna Tartt heads Baileys women's prize for fiction 2014 shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
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  25. ^ Tartt, Donna (1993-04-19). "Fiction: Tam-O'-Shanter" (abstract). The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 


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