By Donna Tartt
Four Things I Liked About The Secret History:
1. Secret society
I’ve been intrigued by this book on the Top 100 List for some time now. Maybe it’s the innate fascination with anything “secret,” the compulsion to be included. It’s also set at a college in Vermont, which a) adds to the air of seclusion and mystery and b) have you ever noticed how few novels actually deal with the college years? It’s rather remarkable, considering how romanticized the freedom of those years is. And they’re arguably a period even more fertile for character development than the teenage years. You’d think authors would be all over that! But they’re not.
Anyway. The Secret History opens with the murder of one member of an exclusive group of friends. It then rewinds to the beginning, working its way back to the opening scene, and then spending the rest of the novel detailing the aftermath. The story revolves around an entitled, eccentric, and somewhat depraved group of 5 students who make up one unconventional professor’s elite classics seminar. Richard, the narrator and new arrival to Hampden College, is initially drawn to the group by their heady aura of mystery and sophistication; they were apart from the rest of the student body and also, seemingly, above. He soon learns, however, that they harbor a dark secret, and once he’s involved, there’s no going back…
The Secret History is one of those books that only ever divulge just enough to tantalize you with the promise that the rest is forthcoming, which works well to keep the reader interested, but can also be kind of frustrating. Especially since you never know whose story you can trust or to what extent the narrator is reliable – or mislead himself. This would have been a five star book, but it got a little too wrapped up in itself… like it was so enamored of how interesting it thought itself that it couldn’t tell when it was losing its audience and ought to find a natural way to finish up quickly.
Books Read This Year: 97
Top 100 Progress: 48/100