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Saturday, 7 July 2018

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The story of a closely knit group of six classics students at a small, elite college in Hampden, Vermont. One of the six students is Richard Papen, who reflects upon and narrates the events that let to a murder within the group.


"There is nothing wrong with the love of Beauty. But Beauty - unless she is wed to something more meaningful - is always superficial."

Please excuse me while I fangirl over this wonderfully dark story that appears to be heavily inspired by the Greek mythology and tragedy that our characters bonded over in the first place. Let's get this straight - I'm almost 100% certain you won't find any of these characters endearing in the slightest. They are all literally THE WORST. And as someone who often needs to fall in love with characters in order to really enjoy a story, I was surprised at how taken I was with this group of preppy Ivy League college students. Our narrator, who is the outsider of the group being on financial aid and such, is even pretty deplorable. Yet that doesn't matter here, I still felt deeply involved in the events that slowly unravelled over the course of the novel.

A murder has been committed and from the very first page, you know who was responsible. But the entire premise of the book is to find out WHY this happened. Tartt's writing is simply spell-binding, as she weaves all the different threads of the story and allows all of her fully-fleshed characters come to life. Each member of the friendship group is so individual and distinct from the others, and I appreciate that because sometimes it can be difficult to keep track when you have a number of characters in constant interaction with each other. Tartt's descriptions of the setting of the story - Vermont - were also fucking LUSH. She almost had me on the next plane over to New England (although not much convincing was really necessary). 

The pacing of the book was perfect for me. It moved along at a relatively consistent pace until a lot of shit started hitting the fan and the downward spirals of different characters began - I WAS HERE FOR IT. I absolutely adored the academic setting of the story, it personally felt relatable in a lot of ways (apart from, you know...the murder) and the discussions the characters had surrounding Greek mythology legitimately had me getting really into it and nodding along. I sometimes like to learn stuff when I read, guys. I also really resonated with how they were all super into their literature - because, same.

The Secret History is relatively chunky (around 650 pages) and the text is quite small, yet somehow I managed to get through this in about a week - truly a sign of how consuming it was. Getting hyped for my next Tartt read!

I recommend this if you're a fan of slow-burning suspense stories and a stunningly dark aesthetic. The hype is real!

5 stars.

Johann

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