When The Goldfinch author Donna Tartt met Kirsty Wark

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Donna Tartt reads from The Goldfinch, her long-awaited third novel released this month. The acclaimed American author is notoriously secretive, but Kirsty Wark found her "very at ease with herself" when they met for BBC Four's Review Show.

It is Tartt's first television interview in 11 years.

"Donna is a very private lady" Wark told BBC Arts. "She hides away while she's working. When I spoke to her it was like she was coming up for air."

Tartt rose to fame in 1992 with her best-selling debut The Secret History. She received a $450,000 advance for the book which she began as a student.

It was translated into 24 languages and sold millions worldwide.

"The Secret History was a combination of being so thoughtful and intense" says Wark, a huge fan of the author. "It was such a good book. You can literally remember where you were when you read it.

"I remember having young children at the time, and finding peace to read with the weird clamour of toddlers running around.

"Now though my son is at university in New York. I was able spend some time with him when I went out to interview her this time."

Donna and Kirsty

Wark was invited back to interview Tartt for a special edition of The Review Show. Their first encounter followed the release of her 2002 novel, The Little Friend.

The author she met a decade earlier was very different to the relaxed Tartt today.

"She was very intense the first time I interviewed her" says Wark. "I was a huge fan. And I really liked the book, when a lot of critics didn't. That's why I was asked to go across.

"I found The Little friend engaging and thoughtful, its setting in the American South has an incredible sense of place."

The Little Friend follows a young girl in 1970s Mississippi planning to take revenge for the death of her brother. Although it launched to huge publicity, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, it never captured the wider popularity of The Secret History.

Tartt's new novel tells the story of Theo Decker, who survives a blast at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art that kills his mother.

"The Goldfinch is a devastating story about loss and childhood, with a strong moral voice," adds Wark. "It's one of the best books I've ever read."

Kirsty Wark Meets Donna Tartt: A Review Show Special is on BBC Four at 22:00 BST on Tuesday 15th October. It is available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

The Goldfinch is the Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 at 22:45 BST on Monday 21st October.

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