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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Review of The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt's debut novel, The Secret History, is a modern classic that has been widely acclaimed since its publication in 1992. The novel is set in a small, elite college in Vermont, where a group of six students, under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, discover a way of thinking that leads them down a dangerous path. The novel is a psychological thriller, a murder mystery, and a coming-of-age story all rolled into one.


The novel is narrated by Richard Papen, a transfer student from California who is drawn to the intellectual and mysterious group of students studying classics at Hampden College. The group is led by the enigmatic Julian Morrow, who is both their professor and their mentor. Richard is fascinated by the group's intellectualism and their elitism, and he is soon drawn into their inner circle.


The group consists of five other students: Henry, Bunny, Francis, Charles, and Camilla. They are all eccentric and intelligent, but they are also deeply flawed. As Richard becomes more involved with the group, he discovers that they are all hiding secrets, and that they are all capable of doing terrible things.


The novel's central event is the murder of Bunny, one of the group members. The group had planned to kill him, but the murder goes wrong, and they are forced to cover it up. The rest of the novel is about the group's attempts to keep their secret hidden, and the psychological toll that the murder takes on them.


The Secret History is a beautifully written novel that is both intelligent and complex. Tartt's prose is evocative and immersive, and she has a way with words that is both raw and true. The novel is easy to devour, and it is hard to put down once you start reading.


The characters in the novel are well-drawn and complex. Each of them has their own flaws and their own motivations, and they are all struggling to find their place in the world. The group's dynamics are fascinating to watch, and Tartt does an excellent job of exploring the power dynamics between them.


The novel is also a meditation on the nature of truth and the power of storytelling. The group's attempts to cover up their crime are a testament to the power of narrative, and the novel raises questions about the nature of guilt and responsibility.


One of the strengths of the novel is its setting. Hampden College is a small, elite college in Vermont, and Tartt does an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere of the place. The college is both beautiful and claustrophobic, and it is the perfect setting for a novel about a group of students who are struggling to find their place in the world.


The Secret History is not without its flaws, however. The novel is slow-paced, and it takes a while for the plot to get going. The murder doesn't happen until halfway through the novel, and some readers may find the first half of the novel slow and meandering.


The novel is also quite long, and some readers may find it difficult to get through. The novel is over 500 pages long, and Tartt's prose can be dense and difficult to read at times.


Overall, The Secret History is a beautifully written novel that is both intelligent and complex. Tartt's prose is evocative and immersive, and the novel is a meditation on the nature of truth and the power of storytelling. The characters are well-drawn and complex, and the setting is both beautiful and claustrophobic.


The novel is not without its flaws, however. It is slow-paced and meandering at times, and it can be difficult to get through. But for readers who are willing to invest the time and effort, The Secret History is a rewarding and thought-provoking read that is sure to stay with them long after they have finished reading.

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