Review: The Secret History


Author: Donna Tartt

Genre: Thriller/Contemporary

My Rating: 5 stars

GoodReads Rating: 4.07 ratings

Good Reads Synopsis: 

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 that is the 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.

For a long time, I have been meaning to pick this book up. It started last summer when Alison recommended it to me and immediately the theme of the book – classics and dark characters had me intrigued. However, I got so caught up in other books that I did not have the chance to till the Christmas break to read it.

As soon as I cracked open this book, I knew from Tartt’s eloquent writing style and the way her words seem to drip with detail that I was in for a whirlwind romance with this book and to say that it satisfied me is an understatement. I think the book caught me in its snare from Tartt’s writing, as a huge sucker for detailed poetical styles, hers did not fail to please me. Each word is crafted so delicately with sentences that seem to have twinkled down from a memory creating a dreamlike haze over the book. The descriptions of the seasons passing by Richards window left me breathless and tranquillized. She is also quite a drifter Tartt, I noticed it with The Goldfinch, Richard could be talking about something and then four pages later you have moved onto something else that has nothing to do with what he was saying – which makes the story even more irresistible.

The Secret History is like the coming of age story from a different dimension, Tartt takes all the aspects of a student’s life and twists it brutally till the characters darkest desires and secrets are revealed raw and ugly for the reader to recoil at. She does this in a very clever way by contrasting it to our simpler world. One moment she may be describing them discussing murdering and conquering towns and then switch to how the gentle sunlight threw shadows onto Camilla’s face – ensuring that the reader is snared in a trap. A trap that is set up for us to fall for these twisted murders. Because of Tartt’s writing, I’m not really sure on how to focus on the aspects of the plot line – it was beautiful, painful and insane is all I can say. My most loving part of the story though is the continuous link to the ancient world. Being a low-key lover of before-ac-time it was enchanting to see how those ancient rulers ways of life still have effect on people – that our love for that time may indeed shape us differently. The elements of the bacchanal, the referrals to Homer and the conversations in Greek was enough to make my knees go weak but also made me sympathise with the characters more.

The characters, I believe, are what make up this story. Richard, our narrator, gave me serious Nick vibes from The Great Gatsby, someone on the outside always looking in, always being the moral compass of the story. He was a complex character, at first, he appeared to be a stumbling boy longing for what the others had but soon he too started to get darker and darker till I’m not sure whether I like him or dislike him as a character. I adored Francis, for some reason his character spoke out to me and I sympathised him a lot. The twins – ah the twins. I have a very soft spot for Charles, a character who at first was overshadowed by his friends but always polite and kind and then developed in part two (realistically) into this frantically scared boy who couldn’t seem to navigate his friends world anymore. Now Camilla was another story. She was my least favourite out of all of them. Something was too perfect too soft too off about her. I wasn’t really sure how I see her. Henry was just, words can’t describe it. I loved his character. I may not like him as a person but the way Tartt developed him was wonderful. He was a villain yearning to be a hero.

And Bunny was just a typical white man.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it whisked me off my feet and left my stumbling for more and questioning my everyday movements. I would highly recommend this to anyone – so if you get a chance add this to your TBR.

-S O P H I E


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