Donna Tartt – The Secret History (Book Review)

The secret history donna tartt book reviewOpening Line: The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

Book Cover Blurb: Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries.

But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Literary

Sample Passage:

Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it


This story is told through the eyes of Richard, a student of very limited financial means who feels like an imposter among his new erudite and affluent classmates. Although he is made to feel like an outsider initially, he slowly wins their trust as cracks begin to appear in their friendships.

They make up a group of six brilliant, but flawed minds with a shared appreciation for the finer points of Greek and Classical literature but balance it with excessive drugs and drink. I was really drawn into the college life with Tartt creating a world that managed to capture the fun and frolics of Uni, not to mention the various personalities that are to be found on virtually all campuses up and down the country.

It was a little hard to keep track of the characters at the start, who was who. Francis and Henry merged into one, with neither quite having been positioned in my mind clearly enough from the outset. However, each role gradually became more fleshed out after the turning point midway through the novel which sends them spinning off on separate tangents for different reasons.

The book was a bit long-winded in places and could definitely have been edited down. Plenty of prose and history around classical literature, while initially interesting as a side note, became a little tiresome later. Although I felt it was heavily padded in places with non-events that didn’t really advance the story, I could appreciate that it added depth to the characters, some of whom I as the reader changed my opinion of throughout.

Although I like my stories with a little more twist and turn, this was an altogether different read. Not so much pacey and full of action, but a slow burner that inevitably built to a climax (some 500 pages later!) as the pressure began to crank up a few notches.

Overall, an interesting and often dark story with some beautiful moments which make me want to follow up and read Tartt’s more celebrated work ‘The Goldfinch.’

Author: Donna Tartt
Other Books Written: The Goldfinch
Time to Complete: 2 weeks
Interesting Fact: Tartt weaves Latin and Greek quotations (untranslated) throughout the novel adding to the readers sensibilities that they are included in this exclusive secret society.
Rating: 7.5 /10

Next BookCold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Part of the BBC Big Read 100 List

Further Reading – Remembering BBC’s The Big Read, The Top 100 Quotes from the Top 100 Novels

pathfinders chapter 1

5 thoughts on “Donna Tartt – The Secret History (Book Review)

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