The Secret History

I feel like everyone I’ve ever talked to about books has recommended The Secret History by Donna Tartt to me and finally, on a long weekend trip, I read it, and now I understand. It was VERY on brand for me. Elite school, weird friend groups, murder, every literary allusion imaginable. It had it all, and while it was super long (my paperback copy was 559 pages) I was entranced the whole time. Obviously, Tartt’s an excellent writer, and I also read the Goldfinch at the beginning of September in time to see the movie.

Richard comes to Hampden College and falls in with an elite group of Greek students in the quiet, Vermont college town. The professor, Julian, is enigmatic and his tight group of pupils are a fixation around campus. There’s big, scholarly Henry with money out the wazoo. There’s Bunny and Francis, as well as the twins, Charles and Camilla, and then there’s Richard–poor and from California who is both taken into the folds of this group as well as left to watch the way the players intertwine, intersect and convene, because there’s something not right under the surface–and when Richard finds out, it’s going to throw his entire life into turmoil. There’s death, murder, a funeral, a relationship you might have seen coming, weird rituals in the woods, the whole shebang. Seriously, this book is packed, but it’s also beautifully written and draws you into this world.

I think my only complaint about this book would be some of the mundane density before the crucial death of the book (the one you find out about in the first line…) and also that I’m still not sure whether our characters were undergraduates or grad students. I could have sworn they said they were grad students at one point, and Bunny was 24, but at the end they were called undergraduates by someone else, and I mean, it ultimately doesn’t matter THAT much and the overall ouevre of the novel was excellent. I’m seriously glad I finally read it, and it made my weekend travel (and the time I spent waiting for my friend to get out of class) more enjoyable.

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