Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

This took some reading, but it was worth it


Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Literary Fiction
First published: 1992
Edition: Hardback, published by Alfred A Knopf in 1992

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 they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.


When you go into a book you have certain expectations, sometimes on the quality of the book, or the amount of time it is likely going to take to read it. In case of this book all my expectations turned out to be correct. Ahead of it, I was intimidated by this book, eventhough at just over 500 pages it is not that big. I was right though. It took a lot reading for me, but in the end I am very glad I read it, because the writing is pretty incredible.

First of all, none of the characters in this book are likeable, yet, hell, did I care what was happening to them! That is very clever writing indeed. The plot, though it centres around a murder, is not incredibly exciting, but somehow it works. It really works.

The relationships between these unlikeable characters in this book was often more unlikeable than the actual individual characters. The way they used and abused each other was integral to this story. I felt frustrated with every single character at various points and that definitely really pulled me into the narrative.

I am terrible at analyzing books, so I won’t even try, but cannot remember the last time I read a book that was this dark, this well written, so dense, but such a joy to read.

I did feel it went on a bit unnecessarily in places, but overall the wordiness felt almost like another character in the book.

Was I right to be intimidated by this book? Yes. Am I glad that I did not let that stop me from reading it? Definitely. So yes, if you want to read this book, just do it, but make sure you have the time to devote to it.

6 out of 7 stars