The Secret History (Donna Tartt, 1992)

secret history

Why did you choose this book?

This is the pick for our next library book discussion.  It’s been on my reading list for years, yet never seemed to float to the top.

What’s it about?

Don’t trust any synopsis you read.  I haven’t found one yet that accurately captures this book.  On the first page we find out that the narrator (Richard) and his group of friends murdered one of their number (Bunny).  The novel traces how Richard became involved with that group, what led them to kill Bunny, and what impact the murder had on their lives afterward.


Literary fiction

Other recommendations?

The themes from this book tickle some memory, but I can’t place it.  The prose is unique to my experience.  I can’t think of anything else I’ve read that compares to it.


I began this novel thinking I wasn’t going to like it, since literary fiction isn’t really my jam.  Tartt’s prose is beautiful, though at times she waxes a bit too heavily into ancient Greek, losing the average reader in a tide of too-much-information.  I found it hard to care about any of the characters, even the narrator, which is saying something, given that it’s told in first person.  I wasn’t bored by it, and didn’t find myself needing to take frequent breaks like I thought I would, but at the same time, I had a distinctly unpleasant feeling when I finished it.  I think it has to do with the Dead Poets Society vibe I picked up.  A group of students coalescing around an instructor, lots of scenes in darkness and with obscure symbolism, death and dying.

The director of our library said this was one of the first novels to incorporate a homosexual character not as a trope but just as another character.  I can appreciate that.  And, actually, he was one of the few I liked.

Up next?

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys


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