Posted by: Ele Quigan | July 23, 2010

‘The Secret History’ Donna Tartt

Not being university trained, I find anything to with university life, and the ideal of what a college kid is like incredibly interesting. As you can imagine, to date this exposure has been primarily through American movies/books, the occasional Ox-bridge based one – and none based in New Zealand.

So what comes to mind… Less than Zero (bored rich kids on holiday), Rules of attraction (bored rich kids at university), Legally Blonde (rich kid follows her boyfriend to university) the list goes on. So you can imagine I was fairly intrigued when I saw the basic synopsis for Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’.

Greek tragedy at it’s very best, it’s fairly dark, at times horrible, with a weak male protagonist who you’re not sure whether you even like or not.

Covering up an ‘accident’ after a Bacchanal the characters get steadily stranger (and estranged) due to what they’ve done and seen. While the climax is stated at the beginning, and the book is essentially reverse engineered, there are still enough weird twists to keep interested. There are smatterings of Greek, history, opulence throughout the book (the key characters are all part of a single influential hand-chosen group – all studying pretty much the same thing by a single tutor).

What’s scary about it, is you can almost imagine what they discuss happening. Genius kids with too much money, wanting to push their own boundaries, each others boundaries, life’s boundaries until it essentially collapses around their feet.

It’s beautifully written in a rich literary style (my favourite. Lets be honest, anything that makes me feel smart for reading it gets a tick in my book) and I’ve struggled to put it down across the last 3 days… Even though the subject matter was at times disturbing – because it was so fast-paced and written so well, I wanted to keep reading.

I’m still thinking about it a day or so later, and wanted to find out more about any history it’s based on, bacchanalian rituals, and looking for the ‘fatal flaw’, “that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life”…

All and all, an excellent novel.



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  2. This is one of my favourites – but I must admit, I haven’t read it for about 7 years! Perhaps I should pull it up again.

    However, I remember trying to read another of Donna Tartt’s books and it was awful! So bad that I have completelky forgotten the name of it!

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