ô Read ¹ The Secret History by Donna Tartt ✓ A month or two before, I would have been appalled at the idea of any murder at all But that Sunday afternoon, as I actually stood watching one, it seemed the easiest thing in the world this book starts and it s like hello bitches, welcome to murder club Here is Bunny, he is dead, he got murdered strap the fuck in.
This book is actually not funny at all It s about murder, lots of it In the first page we find out a group of friends killed one of their own we know the who dunnit, this is a book about the whythis book fucking exposed me so bad Why did I pick it upoh, it s got greek mythology mixed in and it s a classicI lowkey read it for the aesthetic and not because I was interested in the plot which I mostly, did not know And then what is it about people doing things for the aesthetic and getting fucking rektBut also, I heard it s like Kill Your Darlings anD I read IT IMMEDIATELY This book fulfills my need to see the holy trinity of dark academia kill your darlings, dead poets society, The Secret HistoryBeauty is rarely soft or consolatory Quite the contrary Genuine beauty is always quite alarming In all seriousness because this book is deadly serious haha it was surprisingly amazing I wasn t 100% sure what I was expecting, but I loved it much then that I was initially going to give it a 4 , but I couldn t think of a single reason why I was actually taking a star off The writing itself is beautiful, and even if it is dense it is still wonderful It flows, and I loved the style of the narration I loved the way that it would flick between the present, and the day of the murder, so that things were slowly revealed.
The plot itself was also great it s split into two parts, the lead up to Bunny s death, and the events after Although I think I liked the second part , both were great I don t read many mysteries, so maybe it s just me being a genre noob but I found the thrill of the story, and the mystery behind why this group of friends decided to kill one of their own THRILLING I was so wrapped up in this story and the murder and why people did it and how they dealt with that afterwards.
But beyond a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of this book is the characters Deliciously diabolical, flawed to every degree, and yet loveable They are all strange, and yet something about them is so grounded and realistic I was instantly drawn to them all The facade they all put up, the way that aesthetic drove their reasoning I mean, they are all such pretentious motherfuckers and yet something about it is endearing Maybe it s because they are incredibly human, despite it all All the characters dealt with an enormity of problems aside from the murder and that made them relatable, even if they spoke in greek to eachother and smoked dramatically at 2am I understand why so many of the reviews for this book are so vague now because it is so hard to explain what this book is really about It s so, so muchthen I expected, and yet I can t even begin to explain to anyone why it s so much betterI am SHOOK by this book, I am honestly reeling still about the ending, and everything that happened before that I adore these characters, even though I fucking hate them so much, and I am so proud of myself, in a way, for reading this Because it was a challenge for me, and I loved itI suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other This is the only story I will ever be able to tell The first paragraph of The Secret History roughly sums up the mood of the book In it, the narrator, Richard Papen, says that he thinks his fatal flaw is a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs If you can relate to these words, chances are you ll love The Secret History If not, you ll probably wonder what the fuss is all about Personally, I can totally relate to these words, so I love the book I ve read it over half a dozen times, and while I do think it has its problems, I never fail to find it utterly gripping The Secret History is both an intellectual novel of ideas and a murder mystery without the whodunnit element The reader learns right on the first page that Richard and his friends have killed one among their midst The rest of the book goes on to explain how they came to their gruesome deed and what happened to them afterwards Against all odds, it makes for compelling reading, despite the fact that you know right from the start who the killers are Such is the power of Tartt s writing that you find yourself turning page after page, waiting for answers, justifications and possibly a sign of remorse Once these have been dealt with, the book loses a bit of its power, but until that time, it s near perfect.
Donna Tartt s great gift as a writer is her magnificent talent for description Her evocation of life at a small private university in New England with its oddball mix of ivory tower intellectuals and ditzy cokeheads is rich in detail, both shocking and funny If it s not entirely realistic, she makes it so Likewise, her skill at characterisation is superb While Richard is not entirely convincing as a male narrator a fact I find noticeable every time I re read the book , he and his friends make up a fascinating cast of characters six aloof, self absorbed and arrogant intellectuals who are obsessed with ancient Greece and don t particularly care for modern life They re snobs and they have major issues, but somehow that only makes them alluring Together, they form the ultimate inner circle, the kind of tight knit group you know should always stay together Which makes it almost understandable that they should be willing to kill anyone who might jeopardise that group dynamic, incomprehensible though this may seem to the average reader.
I can think of many reasons why The Secret History strikes such a chord with me For one thing, I have a thing for timeless and ethereal stories, and this is one of those Somehow the book has a dreamlike, almost hypnotic quality, despite it being very firmly set in the rather unromantic 1980s I love that For another thing, I have always been drawn to the unabashedly intellectual, and this book has that in spades It makes geekdom alluring, and I just love Tartt for that I wish I were as geeky as Henry Ultimately, what I think I respond to most in The Secret History is the friendship aspect The Secret History is very much a book about friendship It s about the very human yearning to belong and be accepted by people we admire It s about the sacrifices we make to keep friendships intact, the insecurity we feel when we think we might not be completely accepted by our friends after all, and the paranoia we experience when it seems our friends may have betrayed us About the feeling of invincibility we get from having great friends, and the melancholy and loneliness that follow the disintegration of a once great friendship The book basically reads like an elegy on a great friendship, and one doesn t necessarily have to share Richard s intellectual attitude towards life, his morality or even his morbid longing for the picturesque to be able to relate to that It s enough to have yearned for close friendship and been insecure in friendship And let s face it, who hasn t I do not think The Secret History is a perfect book As I said, I find Richard somewhat unconvincing as a male character there is too much about him that screams female author to me Further, the ending is decidedly weak, although to be fair, I have no idea how else Tartt could have finished her book The story does seem to be inexorably heading in that particular direction Insofar as the ending reflects the disintegration that is going on in the characters lives, it could probably be said to be appropriate Still, I wish Tartt could have come up with something on a par with the rest of the book If she had, this would have been a six star book I don t know many of those.
Five Things About The Secret History This is going to be a difficult book for me to talk about I finished it days ago but I find myself a little verklempt, I ll admit It s been a long time since a book has stuck with me so completely as this one, and I say that having had a quite remarkable year for memorable reading So, the summary is straightforward and completely unhelpful a Californian boy arrives at a private New England college where he falls in with a bunch of snooty but delightful Classics majors who happen to have accidentally killed someone during a Bacchian rite they just happened to be conducting in their spare time That is a totally truthful depiction of some of the events in the book, but it is not what the book is ABOUT I will do my best to convince you to pick it up in other ways Without further ado, here are five things about The Secret History.
1 This is not a new book All of your friends have already read it You probably already have a copy of it, actually, that you picked up at some point in the last decade, and now it molders in a box in your master bedroom closet, the one that you never unpacked last time you moved Right next to your college alarm clock and two boxes of 9 volt batteries and that shirt you can t throw out because it was a gift The reason why I m pointing out that it s not a new book is because, since reading it, I ve been told by several people that it is their Favorite Book Ever It is one thing for you to read a book six months before and maintain it as a Favorite Book It is something remarkable when a book can elicit a passionate response from readers twenty years after its publication 2 This book is full of terrible people Pretty much the lot of the people that our narrator Richard meets are awful in some way Self centered or elitist or potheads or sociopathic or just people with really loud voices in quiet places Even Richard is not exactly a great guy But the magic of this novel is that, somehow, you find these terrible people deeply sympathetic I need to go back and reread it to understand this strange enchantment How do I find them so charming Why do I want them to like Richard GIVE ME YOUR SECRETS, BOOK.
3 This is not a whodunit You are told pretty much the Bad Thing That Happens in the prologue, and you can see it coming like a comet for much of the book The effect of this, however, is to create a lovely, unbearable tension and anticipation And when the moment comes in a line that involves ferns it is so deliciously awful I actually exhaled gloriously and put the book down for a moment because I was so delighted by the actual pay off 4 It s long It s over 200,000 words long, I think, and 600 pages in my edition It took me five days to read it And it s not just long, it s dense One of the blurbs on the inside of the jacket said that it read like a 19th century novel, and I don t think that s at all unearned It takes its time developing atmosphere and character quirks and some of the days in the novel take dozens of pages to unfold It is not a novel to speed through It s a novel to get stuck in I put it down when I got too tired, when I felt like I was starting to skim 5 WHAT ELSE CAN I SAY I adore the characters so much I adore the hint the breath of the supernatural I adore the slow, building tension and the sense that I, as a reader, was being skillfully manipulated Yes, that That last one I think that is what I love the most about this novel I get the idea that Donna Tartt was completely in control of this novel Everything is measured and deliberate and just perfectly done, and I trust her entirely Fifty pages in, I knew that she was going to tell me a story I was going to enjoy, even if I had no idea what it was going to be Man, I just am going to flail about some Go read it.
5 I ve been telling myself I need time to think about this book but here we are a month later and I still don t know what to do.
This was described to me as a murder mystery with a bunch of pretentious college students and while it s pretty accurate it s so much than that.
The writing was beautiful character driven and atmospheric book but I struggled to connect with the characters and the overall story.
I can see how it could be on purpose as in the main character was feeling quite detached himself but I m not sure I really enjoyed it but still would recommend it Like I said, I still don t know how to feel about it all Beauty is terror Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before itI have never read anything like this book in my entire life I laid in bed for over an hour last night upon finishing this book, just tossing and turning and thinking about everything I just consumed I still don t think I can put my feelings into words, but I can honestly say this book was a cathartic experience for me, and the irony of the word catharsis being a Greek rooted word is not lost on me, because if this book is anything it s a modern day Greek tragedy The Secret History is told in a unique style, which is a man reminiscing on some significant events that took place in his college life a bit over a year ago So, we follow a younger version of Richard, who is finally starting his life away from his abusive and poor family in California He gets accepted into an elite college in Vermont, and moves across the county in hopes of a fresh start Upon arriving to the college, Richard is denied entry into an Ancient Greek course, because the professor that teaches it only allows enrollment to his small, handpicked, group of students that seem almost cult like Needless to say, Richard becomes utterly obsessed with the five students in this group and the professor, Julian Morrow, himself And with a turn of good luck, and by solving a Greek problem, Richard is accepted into this exclusive group.
Yet, in the prologue we find out that Richard, and four others from the group, murdered one of the other students who they are supposed to have a very close friendship with The Secret History is then told in two parts, one being the events that took place leading up to the death of their fellow classmate, and then one part being all the events that take place after he is murdered Bunny is the poor soul that is unfortunately murdered by his peers, yet he s a racist bigot and you ll be kind of happy he s dead, for the most part Richard, as stated in all the paragraphs above, is the narrator looking back on the events that took place Henry is my personal favorite, but perhaps the worst of the bunch Or maybe the best, I m not really sure, but that s truly the beauty of this story Twins, Charles and Camilla Charles is a bad alcoholic and drug user, and Camilla steals most people s heart and or affection And lastly, we have Francis, who owns a country home that is the stage for many events that take place in this book Oh, and everyone but Richard has money, even though Richard tries his damnedest to keep that a secretWhat we did was terrible, but still I don t think any of us were bad, exactly chalk it up to weakness on my part, hubris on Henry s, too much Greek prose composition whatever you likeAll the characters are morally grey to just generally horrible people, but you completely ignore it because Donna Tartt weaves this hypnotic spell with her writing, that you feel like you are reading this book in a dream like lull The Secret History is unlike anything I ve ever read before, and I m not sure I ll ever read anything quite like it again I also want to touch upon sexuality in this book, because a lot of the members in this group are not straight in the slightest Like, maybe the only ones that were completely straight were Bunny and Camilla I m not saying that the queerness in this book is vilified, but it s for sure not shown in the best of lights So please use caution while going into this.
And this book is so very heavy in general, so please use caution while reading Content Trigger warnings for slut shaming, use of the R word, homophobia, hate speech, fatphobic comments, racist comments, animal cruelty, sexual assault, incest, performing rituals, suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, and murder.
I know this review is probably not one of my best, and I know I m being super vague about all these big themes, but this book is just on a whole other level Maybe this book is about five new adults dealing with the consequences of murder in a very human and realistic way Maybe it s about how we are all just trying to fit in and find family, by whatever unhealthy means available and or possible Maybe this book is about birth and death and how important the time between those two points truly is But I do believe with my whole heart that this book would best be experienced blind, and to just go in and feel all the feelings that Donna Tartt will serve you.
While finishing the book, me and Paloma had a discussion about the ending and how Greek heroes tales normally go We talked about how murder taints everything, and how blood is the only thing that can purify it We talked about how wearing masks is so important, yet death is another mask that we will all eventually wear God, I m being so cryptic, but if you ve read the book maybe this paragraph will mean something to you, because it means the world to me Overall, I know I sound like a broken record, but this was one of the most unique reading experiences of my life I honest to God just do not have the words to put in this review how this book made me feel I will say that it very much feels like a spell is being cast upon you while reading Like, I am almost positive that Donna Tartt cannot be a human being, because she is such an exclusive enigma Also, I think I ve developed a huge crush on her, so there s that at least I can say very confidently that I will remember this book, and the feelings it gave me while reading, for the rest of my lifeBeauty is rarely soft or consolatory Quite the contrary Genuine beauty is always quite alarmingBlog Twitter Tumblr Instagram Youtube Twitch Buddy read with Paloma
First of all, if you are one of those people who dismiss a book as inherently bad simply because you just couldn t relaaa yeeete to aunnny of the charaaactaaaars gum smack smack smack then do not read this book If you can relate to anyone in this novel, then I dismiss you as inherently bad In fact, I fucking hate you Yes, you, because my guess is that, as a modern day example of all the characters in this novel, you probably have a goodreads account, and read nothing but tome suh and write snide, condescending, long winded comments and boring as a brochure reviews jerking off whatever dense novelist or philosopher had previously caught the fancy of whatever other dense novelist or philosopher you had previously jerked off You blindly, unquestioningly, and completely assume the opinions of the few people on planet Earth who you so happen to think are, by some random blip in the universe, smarter than you Oh, and remember when we went on that date when I was in Austin, and it was the worst night of my life You just wanted to hear yourself talk, and you acted so astonished to have some wittle woman laughing at your prefab philosophical wankery Coffee house intellectuals, here is your mirror Now shuddup.
What a pressure cooker This is a 500 that you read like a 200 pager, and watching Donna Tartt unspin her spool is really a delight damn, you mean it s an enjoyable novel Pass Basically, I don t want to give too much away, but a bunch of insufferable Classics students get swept up in an Ancient Greek religious ceremony which results in some very real entanglements with both the law and icky human nature Gosh, I really can t say much else without dowsing you in the spoilies, and I don t want to be an asshole Like every single character in this story I truly cannot stress that enough.
The best aspect of the novel for me was witnessing the aftermath of an untimely death One of the main reasons I despise facebook at this point in my life is witnessing the carnage that ensues when someone passes away All that misplaced emotional exhibitionism Tartt really nails it when she s discussing the ricocheting effect that the death of our just godawfully full of shit character Bunny has on his campus All those melodramatic boo hoos like everybody in the entire city knew him oh so well I ve watched this happen several times, and it kinda makes me sick in my gut parts, and embarrassed for everyone, forever It s one thing to mourn, but it s quite another to leach on other peoples misery and milk it for attention or just something to do, and the death of a young person just really brings that out in people And man, Tartt pins it down here And it s gross and awkward, like it do This is not a spoiler, unless you consider something mentioned in literally the first sentence of the prologue to be a spoiler.
Oh, the narrator, you ask Yeah, he s an asshole, too Don t seek comfort there, because he s basically nothing than a lie factory wallpapered in tweed In fact, it s really pretty rare to come across so many awful people in a single novel unless you re reading, say, Wuthering Heights If there is even one slightly endurable character in the novel, it is Camilla, and she just sort of flitters in and out of scenes, apparition esque, nigh unreadable, almost like one of Jeffrey Euginedes virgins And she spends all her time with these windbags, soI don t know what else to say Murder mystery Late 80 s, early 90 s private college setting Prep school intellectual snoots with lossa monies Shiny prose Fast pace woven out of not too much actual plot Good shit all around.
Thanks are once again in order to goodreader Janice for spoiling me with wonderful free things And she gave me not one, but two Donna Tartt novels Thanks, Janice Did I review better this time No Well, there s still hope I may revisit this and essplain myself better than my I woke up at noon and haven t had coffee yet self is able, but every time I say that it ends up just being an empty promise Almost as empty as the characters in this novel And you if you are the sort of person who relates to the characters in this novel Let me restate how much I hate you.
beauty is rarely soft or consolatory quite the contrary genuine beauty is always quite alarmingand oh, how alarmingly beautiful this story is, as all the best greek tragedies tend to be full of sorrow and struggle, but often accompanied by pure loyalty and divine inspiration gosh i just i cant even right now on the surface, this book is great but donna tartt is an absolute goddess of writing for the sheer depth of this book its a work of absolute brilliance i was never a classics student but, as someone who has taken an interest in the subject over the years, i cant even express my geeky joy for how multifaceted and layered this story is by exemplifying fatal flaws, dissecting the apollonian vs dionysian philosophical theory, personalising the mask of death, understanding the action and stagnation of life, and realising the lifelong quest for the picturesque, this story is a modern greek tragedy and a classic in its own right wow i will be thinking about this book for quite some time 4.
5 stars Apparently the New York Times described The Secret History as PowerfulEnthrallingA ferociously well paced entertainment and Time said A smart, craftsman like, viscerally compelling novel Very funny, guys, ha ha and all that They re such jolly jokesters They ll have you believing anything The Secret History is complete tripe no, that s harsh, let me put it another way it s COMPLETE TRIPE oh dear, this keyboard has a mind of its own and is very firm about its opinions too but this book is also the literary equivalent of novocaine and it s just so cozy.
SPACE FOR GIF OF COZY CUTEY KITTY Oooh Donna Just another bowl of bananas and custard and a whopping plateful of classical references and allusions and a murder And ladle on all the upper class schmooze for us You knowwwwww what I likeTickle my tootsies and call me something Latinooooh.
This book puts you in the kind of trance where you don t mind that The Secret History is mercilessly ripped off from Brideshead Revisited Well, I didn t mind at all because I hadn t read Brideshead Revisited then, which I suspect most of young Donna s readers hadn t either and I further suspect the reviewers of The New York Times and Time hadn t Or they d have run her out of town on a rail, if that still happens I haven t seen it done for years Oh Donna, oh Donna how does that old song go I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.
Three stars though Sometimes it s fun to be fooled.
The most fundamentally unlikable thing about this book is that all of the characters each and every one of them are snobby, greedy, amoral, pretentious, melodramatic, and selfish The six main characters are all students at a small and apparently somewhat undemanding college in Vermont, studying ancient Greek with a professor who s so stereotypically gay as to be a homosexual version of a black face pantomime In between bouts of translating Greek, the students end up murdering two people, and then devolve into incoherent, drunken, boring decay The best thing I can equate this book to is the experience of listening to someone else s dream or listening to a very drunk friend ramble on and on and on, revealing a little too much awkward personal information in the process The climax of The Secret History s narrative was around page 200, but the book was 500 pages long So, essentially, this book contained 300 pages of scenes where the characters do nothing but drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, go to the hospital for drinking so much alcohol and smoking so many cigarettes, get pulled over for drunk driving, talk about alcohol and cigarettes, do cocaine, and gossip about each other while drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
Tartt s writing was sometimes genuinely good at establishing a thrilling and suspenseful mood, but other times, especially toward the end, her writing became the kind of self conscious, contrived, empty prose that I can imagine someone writing just to fill out a page until a good idea comes to them, kind of like how joggers will jog in place while waiting for a traffic light That kind of writing practice is fineas long as the editor is smart enough to cut it before the final copy The last 300 pages were the authorial equivalent of that kind of jogging while going nowhere, and it soured the whole book for me.
In the book s attempt to comment on the privilege, self interest, and academic snobbery of rich college kids in New England, the book itself comes to be just as self absorbed and obsessive as its characters it turns into a constant litany of unnecessary conversations, sexual tensions that go nowhere, purple prose descriptions of the landscape, contrived plot twists that fizzle out, and forced, overblown metaphors The confusing part was that Tartt seemed to identify with and expect us to identify with these students not to admire them for murdering people, obviously, but to respect and envy their precious contempt for everything modern and popular, as though they lived on a higher plane than normal people The cliche of academic types being remote from the mundane world and out of touch with reality may have a grain of truth to it, but Tartt took that cliche way too far The story is set in the early 90s, and yet some of the characters had never heard of ATMs, and they still wrote with fountain pens, drove stick shift cars, cultivated roses in their backyards, wore suits and ties to class, and said things like, I say, old man Did I mention that this story is set in the early 90s It got to the point where all the anachronisms came to seem ridiculous and gratuitous Ostensibly, the point of the novel was to critique the point of view that privileged academics are somehow superior to the average person, but Tartt seemed too enad of her own characters and the endearing way they held cigarettes between their fingers to really allow that kind of critique to be successful Maybe Tartt s second novel managed to get away from the claustrophobic selfishness of The Secret History, but I don t feel up to reading it after this.
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