The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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 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.
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?
Also I just had to show y’all this answer I found on Goodreads, how hilarious is this:
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!