Books Read in 2015 – 28. The Secret History – Donna Tartt (Contains spoilers)

Genre: Thriller

Narrative Style: First person41K7TYBGF4L

Rating: 3/5

Published: 1992

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: A set of misfits at an exclusive college studying classics decide to try and emulate the morality of ancient times. This sees them start to view themselves as being outside current morality and they begin to follow their own rules.

There is no doubt that Donna Tartt can string a sentence together and the strength of her prose is the main reason that I rated this as I did. Richard’s narrative voice is quite powerful and I had a clear idea about the personality of each of the group as he saw them and also of his own feelings on the matter.

However, I did not find the story particularly compelling. It was hard to feel anything for such a bunch of odd, emotionally stilted individuals. When reading about the rich and the privileged I always feel a little like I am viewing some sort of alien species and there was definitely an element of that here. These weren’t people like any I knew. As such, I didn’t care about their petty jealousies or there murderous intentions.

The killing of Bunny is signposted straightaway and the reasons for it were quickly obvious. Bunny himself, was irritating even before he knew that the group had killed someone in a bacchanalian night of excess and I watched detached as they plotted to kill him. It was hard to feel any sort of suspense as I didn’t care whether they carried it out or not.

There is still a lot of the book to go at this stage and I do feel that it could have been shorter but Richard analyses every emotion and every action afterwards as the group fall apart in various different ways. The only one who seems to have any sort of control is Henry who was the main force behind killing Bunny. He is the one who tries to keep the others in control. It was clear that he was meant to be some sort of monster but he just seemed cold and empty and he made me feel sad rather than anything else. When, in the end, he shoots himself, I felt nothing, no shock or emotion at all. It just made me feel pleased that the story was nearly over.


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