Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book, is one that I find nearly impossible to explain. For all intensive purposes I’d like to say that this book made me think college would be really murdery and mysterious when in reality it’s just sleep deprived kids trying to find someone who will give them free food.

It’s been months since I finished this book, and yet I still can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a book that will leave you breathless, even months after reading. It’s a book that feels akin to lighting a candle and just watching it burn, just for the aesthetic.

I must point out immediately that my words are not quite as pretty as the words in this book. It’s mostly just me pointing out things and making incoherent gremlin noises. But, they are genuine gremlin noises.

“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”

It opens, with murder. Bunny is dead, that’s not a spoiler, you find out on page 1 that he is dead and that his group of friends killed him. Instead of focusing on the whodunit part of the book, it instead explores the why.

It must be said early on, you probably won’t like the characters in this book, and if that’s something important to you, than I suggest you find another book to read. All these characters are seriously flawed, and make the worst of decisions at all time.

Richard, our narrator, the man looking back on all of this, is ordinary. He’s the only one out of the group who isn’t rich, but that makes him no less pretentious. Henry is perhaps the worst of all of them, or maybe the best. Camilla and Charles are twins. Charles being a frequent user of varying vices, to the point of addiction. And Camilla being one who steals people’s hearts, which is a solid day job if you ask me. Bunny is the one who got murdered, and for someone named Bunny, you’ll porbably be glad he’s dead, since he was a raging bigot. And lastly, Francis, who owns a summer home, where much of this story takes place.

While all of these characters are the literal worst, Tartt has this ability to make you question everything you’ve ever known. I find her ability to keep you on your toes and keep questioning these characters hypnotic, and honestly? God-tier level prose. I’ve read a lot of books in my life, and there are few that have made me think like this book has.

I just want to know what went wrong in my life. Because this book about a group of friends murdering their friend, purely for the aesthetic, kept me rooted in the story, kept me guessing, literally had me petrified to flip the pages.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”

Absolutely masterful.

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