Book review: The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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From Goodreads

29044Under 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 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.

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What do I even say about this book? I don’t know where to start with this review, to be honest.

Donna Tartt’s writing is some of my favourite. I have read both this book and The Goldfinch by her, and they are both beautifully written. Even when nothing was happening, I didn’t mind because I was just happy to be reading Tartt’s writing.

The characters are all really interesting characters. I saw someone on Goodreads say “all the characters were insanely pretentious” which is hilarious to me because the whole point is that they’re pretentious? Ma’am it’s literally a story about how being pretentious will make you do ridiculous things. The characters’ defining feature is pretentiousness!! That’s the whole point!! But I guess just know that going in. If you can’t deal with pretentious protagonists, this is definitely not for you.

But, back to the characters, they really are all great, distinct characters. Tartt is super talented at making distinct voices for each character, and you can really see that in this book. I liked the way we were introduced to the different characters, and how your perception of them changes over time.

One of my issues that’s not really an issue is that with Tartt’s books, I never know what era they’re supposed to be taking place in. Some of it makes it feel like it’s supposed to be the 1950s(ish): the way Henry dresses, the brasserie they go to, Bunny’s opinion of gay people, the description of Hampden and how they couldn’t heat it in the winter (???), the issue with getting airplane tickets, where Henry and Bunny stayed in Europe. All of those made it seem like it was the 50s. But, at some point, the year comes up and it’s the 90s? So,,,, what’s the deal with all those things? Again this isn’t necessarily an issue, it’s more just something that confuses me (I felt similarly about The Goldfinch tbh so I think it’s just A Thing that Tartt does).

My biggest issue was that this book just felt long; that being said, though, I don’t think there was anything that could have been cut out. Thinking about it, everything was necessary and everything made sense. I didn’t think there were scenes or information thrown in at random that didn’t eventually make sense. I mean, at 559 pages, it is long, but there wasn’t anything that could have been taken out? So this is very much a me issue.

Overall, I think if you want to read this book, you should. It’s really interesting, incredibly well-written, and has a fantastic setting. If you don’t like slow books, I’d probably say stay away?

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Also I just had to show y’all this answer I found on Goodreads, how hilarious is this:


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So those are my thoughts on The Secret History! But what about you? Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Anything you agree or disagree with me on? Do you plan on reading this book? Let me know!

Ally xx

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23 thoughts on “Book review: The Secret History

  1. I love The Secret History, but I had the same problem with figuring out the time period. It’s not a huge deal, but knowing when it’s set does make visualizing everything easier.

    When I re-read this book I’ll 100% be picturing Richard as Arthur and I’m 100% sure it will make the whole thing 100% better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally, fully understand why this book isn’t for everyone but it drives me NUTS when people say ‘the characters were too pretentious’ as if that were a failing of the author rather than THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE BOOK!!! Anyway I’m glad you embraced the pretentiousness and loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s interesting that you mention era confusion. That’s something I really struggle with as someone who grew up in a rural area. Many of my personal experiences seem anachronistic (i.e. I often had to shower with a shower bag tied to a tree). I find it hard to relate to books that are contemporary because, for the longest time, I didn’t believe that people could afford so many “fancy” things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so interesting! It totally makes sense, though, that depending on where you grow up, your experiences are very different. I guess it’s just another example of why it’s so important to read stories of people with different experiences than you.

      But major props to you for showering with a shower bag! I’ve done it before, and it’s definitely not my favourite.

      Liked by 1 person

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