The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: July 1993
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5

Plot: 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 their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.

So I read a lot of YA. And when I say a lot, I mean almost exclusively.

It’s not really a thing that’s done on accident either; I get a lot out of YA. I find the stories and the characters are a lot more diverse. I genuinely think that YA is paving the way to progression in novels. You don’t believe how many general fiction books sound so similar to each other and yet get published. My time working in a bookshop meant casually reading the blurbs in the gen fiction section and rolling my eyes at the honestly tiresome tropes and stock characters.


And so when I picked up The Secret History I did expect certain things. First off, I wasn’t a fan of the characters. I know these characters aren’t supposed to be likeable, but there’s a line that crosses over into “I’m ready for them to die or at least stop talking.” – this was Richard all over. At points he’s either just a walking camera so that we can peer into the lives of other, more interesting characters, or he’s got an inner dialogue that makes me want to strangle him. I feel, without him, I would have given The Secret History 5 stars because I loved all of the other characters…even Bunny (I know).

I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the style of writing too. I mean, I read the first page and thought “Well shit, this is A Level English Lit all over again,” but I was actually able to follow along and it really added to the ‘posh’ feeling you get from the characters who, let’s face it, are quite elitist. This is the stuff they would be reading and how they would be reading it. And it was gripping too, despite the lengthy prose and the insufferable protagonist, I was eager to make it to the end, to see what became of these characters who had found themselves in such an awful situation when it was often so easy for them to get out of stuff usually.

I don’t think I’m interested in reading Tartt’s other novels, but I’ll definitely be finding more literary style general fictions that have more interesting plots like The Secret History!

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  1. Darren

    February 28, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Hollie, I am so glad you liked this book, despite the fact you didn’t really enjoy the characters. Ugh, I don’t know, I only just read this over Christmas and I was floored by it (might be the feeling elitist part) but I really did enjoy it. I think she’s a phenomenal writer, and she takes 8-10 years to write her books. Which shouldn’t mean much but that could be why you found parts of the prose heavy – because she really invests in her books. You must must MUST read The Goldfinch. It’s what got me into Tartt and a huge chunk of a book but still so readable, you’ll be hooked!

    1. hollie (hollieblog)

      March 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      I definitely found that I didn’t want to put it down, and it was very intriguing! But yeah, characters who infuriate me always make me knock a star down!

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