A few days ago I finished Donna Tartt’s international bestseller, ‘The Secret History’. Although it did take me a while to get through (mainly because of exams), I thoroughly enjoyed it.
For those of you who haven’t read it, ‘The Secret History’ is a thriller about a group of classics students at an elite Vermont college who, influenced by the tales they have studied, begin to live their lives beyond the realms of normal morality. This, as you might expect, has disastrous consequences (which I will refer to as the “Main Event”) which threaten to ruin their lives forever.
I was compelled to read this novel after having read ‘The Basic Eight’ by Daniel Handler (which, incidentally, is one of the best books I have ever read) last year – many reviews compared the two. While their plots are somewhat similar, the tone in each of the books is very different: while ‘The Basic Eight’ was more casual and ridden with teenage angst à la ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, ‘The Secret History’ came across as much more formal and intellectual – a reflection on the class, intelligence and wealth of the main characters (this is in no way a criticism of Handler’s novel, as its tone was entirely appropriate to the narrator’s personality).
One of reasons I enjoyed ‘The Secret History’ so much as the amount of twists and turns the plot took. The Main Event of the novel is referenced in the prologue, so the reader knows what the action of the first half of the book is leading up to, yet the journey of how the characters arrived at that point is fascinating. Things only get more intense in the second half, which deals with the aftermath of the Main Event (which I won’t reveal!). I also loved the development of the characters – every character was very flawed, yet you couldn’t help but sympathise with them. They all felt very human.
I would thoroughly recommend ‘The Secret History’ to those who enjoy suspense and high-quality writing. I will certainly be on the look out for more of Tartt’s books!
My overall rating? 8/10.