Book Review: The Secret History


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.


I loved this! The main character Richard was a very interesting narrator, I enjoyed getting to know these characters as they would not be the most likeable characters traditionally. I found Henry’s pretentiousness quite amusing at times I was keenly interested in his character until the very end. However, if I had to pick a favourite character it would probably be Francis, as it was his character that consistently held my attention, especially in the second half of the novel as he attempts to come to terms with what they have done. One of the side characters, Judy Poovey is another aspect that I really enjoyed as she brings a sense of much needed comic relief.

Another aspect of The Secret History that I particularly enjoyed was the way the book was split into two parts, with the first being heavily focused upon why they killed Bunny, and the second being heavily focused upon the effects that this act has had upon the central characters.

At first I found it odd that the main part of the novel should be in the middle, and couldn’t imagine what Donna could possibly have to say for 300 more pages. However, upon reading it this part of the novel actually became my favourite. It was here that Donna allowed her characters (Richard in particular) realise the gravity of their situation and the magnitude of what they had done, with this causing them to act in increasingly questionable ways until the climactic end. I personally loved the way Tartt chose to end this book as it was here that the tension masterfully came to a front. However, I found that although the epilogue was clearly necessary, I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps it fell a little flat in comparison to the rest of the book.

The only other issue I had with this book was coming to grips with when it was actually set. Though I absolutely loved the novel and the aesthetic of it all, I found it increasingly hard to believe that these events were happening in the early 90s, and couldn’t help but imagine it taking place much earlier. However, despite this issue, I’m still willing to give this book 4 stars and call it one of my absolute favourites!

Overall, I cannot believe this is Donna’s first novel. I felt like I was there, apart of the story on the outside looking in. The writing is immaculate. One of my favourite parts was how each season was written as you can feel each season and see their beauty.

When the story is taking place there is some racy topics being mentioned but with the way it’s written and at its time. I love how she has explored some people’s sexuality at a time that would have been barely mentioned. The other topics that would be difficult to write about without getting a lot of criticism they didn’t mention it too much – it was written to well and made it okay to be mentioned and it was gripping to read.

It was really realistic based on the storyline and it wasn’t too out there. If you have an interest in open minded, dark, and a hint of pretentious reads this is for you.

4/5 Stars


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