14 December 2013
The Secret History
Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning....
The Secret History is one of those books that opens with the climax of the action then rewinds to tell the story. You'd think that this wouldn't be compelling but let me tell you, Donna Tartt can tell a story filled with detail like no one else.
Even having read this once before and knowing how all the loose ends tie together, I was unprepared for the level of detail I'd missed on my first reading. It will likely take a third and maybe a fourth re-read to catch them all. The details about the twins. About Henry, about Bunny. About how we are given some clues to the setting - mid-1980s - but that the protagonists as seen by Richard seem to exist in some time-less void that gives off a vaguely mid-century air. About how absolutely none of the characters - primary or secondary - are even close to being likeable characters (as Maggie Stiefvater says, they are all terrible people) yet we start to feel sympathy for them against our will.
A fabulous book to wallow in when the weather is nasty and cold. I finished my re-read of The Secret History during a snowstorm, so now I can move on to The Goldfinch.