The Secret History – Donna Tartt

Book #147
Reviewer: Tall, Short & Tiny

The Secret History


“The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.”

When a novel draws me in from the opening line, I know that chances are, the rest of the story is going to deliver. The Secret History did not disappoint in that regard, and despite its sheer size (over 600 pages), I managed to finish it in record time.

The story is narrated by Richard Papen, a student at an elite New England college who finds himself involved with a group of eccentric Classics students who are living a slightly different way to the usual student life. The opening line reveals the murder of Edmund “Bunny” Corcoran, and from there, we are drawn into the most fascinating of stories.

It is a mystery in reverse; the crime is revealed on the first page, but the motives and circumstances behind it are revealed page by page. As the story unfolds, we are left wondering how such intelligent young people have failed to live up to their potential; how they became caught up in such a tragic event that has ruined their lives.

Even though the story is quite fast-paced, none of the details are lost; Donna Tartt has a truly evocative style and paints a wonderful picture of the wintery woodland scenes, the chilly student accommodation, and the university way of life.

The Secret History is, in many ways, like a modern soap opera. There is unrequited love, latent homosexuality, hidden love, backstabbing and alcoholism. The cast of characters are extremely easy to relate to, but also highly dramatised and often amusing. I found myself liking a character one minute, then feeling frustrated with him or her the next; Tartt has depicted her characters so perfectly and they are very believable, at the same time as often seeming outlandish and atypical.

As I said at the beginning, I raced through this book, neglecting my children and my housework* in order to just keep reading.

It is a gripping read; clever and superbly written, I give it 5/5 stars.

*I didn’t really neglect my children….I may have neglected the housework a little though!


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