Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt Published: 1 July 1993 (Penguin)
Paperback, 629 (Penguin Books)
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Campus Novel
Rating: 5 stars
Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature?
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living and that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.
Death is the mother of beauty
This book was recommended to me by a prospective teacher I was interviewing to join my school’s English department when I was 16. She told me why it was her favourite and that from talking to me she could tell it would be a book that would be really good for me considering where I was at that point in my life. She wasn’t wrong!
“Are you happy here?” I said at last.
He considered this for a moment. “Not particularly,” he said. “But you’re not very happy where you are, either.”
I love everything about this book, Tartt she really did an AMAZING job. Her writing is absolutely incredible, and every reread is just as charming as the first time. It’s dark, it’s gripping, it’s brilliantly crafted and a little bit pretentious – just how I like it. It definitely takes patience, so if you’re looking for a book with a fast paced plot, this might not be for you, the story is slow to build as it works to uncover the characters..
I think one of the best parts of this book is the fact that it’s not about who did it, but when or how. The reader is fully aware of the tragedy that will befall one of the characters from the prologue, but there is a certain level of intensity created as Tartt leaves you waiting for that particular event to occur.
“But how,” said Charles, who was close to tears, “how can you possibly justify cold-blooded murder?’
Henry lit a cigarette. “I prefer to think of it,” he had said, “as redistribution of matter.”
None of the characters are great people, to be honest. They’re all tragic, selfish and have crooked moral compasses.
Our main character: Richard Papen.
An outsider. Insecure and anxious. I relate to Richard on a whole other level. I’ve felt the feelings he’s felt: the desire to fit in, and the shock that you didn’t fit in as well as you thought you did. It was sad being able to see where Richard strayed from a course that could have really made him happy. We, as the reader, are outsiders WITH Richard, and are extended an invitation from Donna Tartt to join in his “adventures” with this intellectual and charismatic group.
My favourite character: Francis Abernathy
Red hair. Covered in freckles. Signed his suicide letter, ‘Cheerily, Francis’. ‘Cubitum eamus?’. He’s constantly sulking. A hypochondriac.
The character I love to hate: Henry Winter
Charismatic, totally inhuman, and an evil mastermind so of course everything is his idea. In the way that he is the epicentre of everything that happens in this novel, you could almost say that he is a main character alongside Richard. I’ve changed my mind just writing this, I think I love him. And it was only once I was on the second to last chapter of the book that I realised that Henry had been manipulating Richard (and me) the entire time.
The character I really hate: Julian.
“I like Homer”, I said weakly.
He regarded me with chill distaste. “I love Homer,” he said.
I own 5 copies of The Secret History in 4 different editions.
Don’t question my motives, I have a problem!
Forgive me, for all the things I did but mostly for the ones that I did not
Maggie Stiefvater’s review of the book really is worth a read.
I don’t know how popular this opinion is but I really think that The Raven Cycle is quite similar to The Secret History.
Also, (date to be confirmed) Leigh Bardugo is writing a book called Ninth House which also sounds very similar to The Secret History which I am so excited to get my hands on.
I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell