04 March, 2012

The Secret History

Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning
What I thought: Last year I read a book called Reading By Moonlight: How Books Saved a Life by Brenda Walker about how the author used books to help her through cancer treatment. One of the books she mentioned that caught my attention was Donna Tartt's The Secret History. I can't remember exactly what she said about it, but it was enough for me to get the library to order it for me...and I'm glad I did.
Let me first say, it's a dense book. At over 500 pages long and small type, you have to read it. Set, I would say, in the late 60's, early 70's, there is a feeling of the Greek scholars being set apart from the rest of their class mates who are portrayed as seeing collage as one long party. Where Richard and his friends study the classics,  drink whiskey, eat out and pop prescription medication, their class mates party, drink beer, eat in the college dining hall and smoke dope. A very deliberate attempt by the author I feel to separate the Greek scholars - not so much as set them above, but set them apart. The events that happen are both fantastical and believable. The fall out devastating and inevitable. By the end of the book however, I did not like a single one of the characters. Flaws are one thing, but truly by the end I had trouble coming up with one redeeming feature between them let alone each!
Although it required concentration to read, The Secret History kept you engaged and wanting to continue. I often found I had to stop, not because I wanted to, but because I needed to absorb what had happened so far.
I would highly recommend The Secret History. I have another of hers sitting on a shelf upstairs (The Little Friend I think) which I am now sure to read. Just don't pick up The Secret History thinking you are in for  a light read!