The Secret History
Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Coming fresh off my last blog post about dark academia recs, I finally finished The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This book might not look like a dense one, but at 550 pages, with teeny tiny print, and writing that reads like a modern day classic, this one is a time investment. It took me weeks to get through and I had moments where I wondered if it was worth it, especially in the first half of the book. Split into two sections, the first half sets the stage for the catalyst of the book. The second half moves at a much faster pace and kept me turning the pages.
A group of clever misfits at an elite New England college find themselves obsessed with their charismatic Greek teacher that ultimately leads them down a deadly path.
Donna Tartt is known for her descriptive, lyrical writing. I listened to the audiobook of The Goldfinch years ago, way before I was a #bookstagrammer. While I didn't love it, I enjoyed it enough and got a feel for her writing. She has a way of creating unlikeable characters centered around a central plot line, but tends to add a couple hundred pages more than I think she really needs to. (In my opinion.) The Secret History is no different. I do appreciate her dark, atmospheric sense of place in her novels and this one hits the nail on the head with it's dark, dreary New England collegiate setting.
The main protagonist, Richard Papen, finds a group of fellow students who he finds intriguing. Twin siblings Charles and Camilla, Francis, Bunny, and their leader, Henry, all attend Greek classes with a specific professor and he finds himself drawn to them. Richard is a bit of a hot mess. He hails from California, yet doesn't fit the stereotypical Californian. After joining their group, one major conflict occurs that is the catalyst that separates their lives from before this event and after.
Right off the bat, we learn that Bunny dies, though we don't know the circumstances surrounding his death. The events leading up to Bunny's untimely demise unravel in the first half of the book. I was instantly intrigued, but forewarning, the first half of the book moves at a slow pace. The second half is the domino effect of what occurs after Bunny's death and wow, did it keep me on the edge of my seat. I needed to see the fallout and what would happen to these characters as they spiraled out of control.
I liked this one. It took me awhile to get through and reads like a classic-think dense prose with flowery writing. The Greek/classics aspect was new to me and there were several terms I Googled to get a better understanding. That usually turns me off from a book, but once I got into a rhythm with this one, I didn't mind it.
I kept thinking that this would make a perfect movie and went on a Google binge of movie cast ideas. I found this blog post that fit who I imagined perfectly:
“The Secret History” Fantasy Film Cast – Kyle+Mads (kyleandmads.com)
I would love to discuss with anyone who has read this one!
4 - 4.5 stars
“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”
“Forgive me, for all the things I did but mostly for the ones that I did not.”
“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.”