Note: This is all simply my opinion but I hope you find it helpful nonetheless. I am avoiding spoilers, as well.
The Secret History was the first novel by Donna Tartt I had read. I decided to pick it up again after finally finishing a rather generic but well written crime novel. (I had gotten that book for free so I couldn’t complain too much.) The Secret History, which was Tartt’s first novel, is elegant, cynical, dark, and gripping, It is told through the eyes of Richard Papen, who is reflecting on his years at Hampden College in New England (Connecticut, to be specific.) Richard moved from a boring life in California to start over at Hampden. While he is there, he is drawn to a private and elite professor who teaches a small group of secretive students about the intricacies of Greek and Latin. Richard soon finds himself in over his head in a world of murder, drugs, sex, ancient Greek rituals, and the private lives of upper class.
This novel is particularly unique in its writing style. Tartt, in Richard’s voice, describes rather mundane college happenings in a way that is Shakespearian. Richard, who is simply trying to reinvent himself, is relatable for anyone who has ever wished to get away from their hometown. Also, like other college students, he learns that looks are deceiving. While his experiences are a little more extreme than the average college students’, it is still easy to understand what he is going through. Tartt does an excellent job crafting characters who are complex, dangerous, and painfully human. Hubris is the word that comes to mind when describing the downfalls of the cast of characters in this novel. Anyone familiar with Greek tragedies can recognize the trademarks that Tartt weaves into her novel.
You don’t have to necessarily be interested in Homer or know Latin to enjoy this novel. While these drew me into the novel in the first place, anyone who is interested in dramas or thrillers will definitely enjoy Tartt’s novel. I highly recommend this book for those seeking an intelligent and well-crafted novel that keeps you wanting more. It’s combination of realism and drama is compelling and hard to stop reading. The Secret History is an engaging novel with a depth and eloquence that few can capture.
(Also for more images of Greek statues in modern clothing, check out this link: )
One thought on “Beauty is Terror: Reviewing The Secret History by Donna Tartt”
This book is the next one on my TBR, so glad you reviewed it!! Looking forward to reading it now, and keeping in mind what you have said!