The Secret History

By Donna Tartt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret History

I will admit to not knowing if I liked this book or not when I first started. It starts a bit slow, even with a major teaser in the very beginning. I did genuinely want to learn what happened so I kept reading. At some point, it switched from not knowing if I was enjoying it to deciding how much I was enjoying it.
The draw to this book is really the subtle tension. The pacing for the most part remains a bit slow, but that’s entirely because of the fact that the story follows the main character, Richard, who is a part of the elite and eccentric social group in his college while simultaneously remaining very outside of it. It was a little unnerving watching terrible events unfold with little bits of information coming in to paint a whole picture. It was also nice reading a character I both liked and disliked in a good way.

I was genuinely not sure how I felt about this book for the first 1/4 of reading it, even with the opening of the book discussing the death of a major character. The story follows Richard, a young man with little to his name but the desire to be more. He was actually a pretty relatable character. I enjoyed watching him do whatever was in his power to be a part of this elite group of Latin students at the college he transfers to. I could see the appeal. They were eccentric, mysterious and from an outside perspective they appeared to be privileged. Again, that desire was relatable.

Throughout the book Richard starts to see how dark this group truly is, unofficially lead by another young man named Henry. Secrets, murder and blackmail abound! All the while, Richard is mostly oblivious to all of this until they start spreading into his life, despite the groups efforts to keep him on the outside. I loved seeing each character in turn essentially confide in him separately everything that is going on and it is because of the fact that he has the least involvement in all their shady dealings. While Richard is struggling with this aspect of his life though, the author peppers in interactions with other students at the school that have no involvement with the Latin class. It’s a really great method of making us as the readers so very frustrated at Richard. Several interesting and extremely likable characters are introduced that would have made for a much better college experience for Richard. Richard however, cannot distance himself from the drama. It’s terribly frustrating in a way I’m sure the author had intended. Tensions remained high through most of the book because of all of the secrets that everyone seemed to have. Because these secrets were being kept from Richard, they were being kept from us.

Overall

I ended up really liking this book despite, and a little bit because of, the fact that it sort of feels like nothing really happens until the major plot points which mostly revolves around a death and murder. I can’t say I would recommend this book to everyone, but I personally am very happy to have read it.

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