The Secret History by Donna Tartt. 1992.
Richard is a Californian who transfers to a New England college and becomes part of an elite group of Classics students who study with an enigmatic professor. A few members of the group accidentally commit a crime and afterwards tell Richard about it. The real tragedy occurs when Richard helps them kill the friend who threatens to expose their secret.
This is the story about how they get away with the crime and also about how each character becomes unraveled in its aftermath. It is a wickedly funny read and also a tragedy of youthful mistakes. Tartt’s relentlessly black sense of humor keeps it all from being too weighty.
She has a real gift for describing settings and can evoke the feeling of standing on a tree-lined path at twilight with the tang of wood smoke and scent of oncoming snow in the air. Despite the horrific subject matter, Tartt’s romantic descriptions are strangely comforting. Every word is considered with deliberation, the plot is finely crafted and the pacing of the narrative draws you into their secret.
The characterizations of inexperienced college students bumbling their way through extraordinary circumstances are often quietly ridiculous. But she brings them to life and makes you want to spend time with them; go to their classes or hang out at their country mansion. She makes you want to save them too. But once you are sucked in, you begin to question yourself and your own morality.
This story is fundamentally about character and human nature. After reading this book seventeen times, I’m still undecided: are these characters just awful or simply human? (also available as an Overdrive download and in Spanish)
by Erica, Richmond Library
Tags: Crime Fiction