The Secret History

The Secret History - Donna Tartt First off I have to say that reading a book that consisted primarily of a bunch of rich kids (almost all characters, not the main one) not wanting to own up to something terrible they did because who would that benefit was mind boggling to me. I just read most of the book feeling pretty much appalled by everyone through the end. The backstory to how things even got like this made me laugh though. I mean, it didn't make a lot of sense and felt a bit too handwavey to me. Let's blame everything on Bacchus seemed to be the group think.

I think telling the story in the first person via Richard was a good idea. We are able to mindwalk into what happened to him when he goes to college and pushes until he is accepted to a Greek course that causes him to meet some of the students he has become fascinated by. Richard's interaction with the professor (Julian) and other students (Henry, Camille and Charles (fraternal twins), Bunny, and Francis starts to shape how Richard thinks of things and causes him to hide his background from them. What I thought was done very well and one of the reasons why I gave it 3 stars is you can start to see how one person can end up influencing a group of people. And you can see from Julian (the professor) to Henry how many people just cowed under them.

I think all in all not one of the secondary characters had any redeeming qualities besides maybe Francis. Everyone else was pretty terrible from beginning to end. Maybe that was another reason why I liked the book enough to give it 3.5 stars. Usually the author would have done something to excuse the actions of some of the characters or the main character, but she doesn't in this one.

The writing in parts didn't work for me at all but that was due to the sprinkling of Greek throughout the book. Also not everyone has a background in Greek literature or even with some of the works from people like Homer or Plato so the asides thrown out every five seconds (it felt like to me) doesn't work unless you have background in those things. Some things I understood, others I did not and had to go looking them up (thank you to my in book dictionary).

The flow of the book was off after "the big incident". Everything felt thrown in after that point. I think the book should have ended much sooner. It felt like a lot of side plots were just thrown in that ultimately did not work. I kept reading and reading and it felt like the book decided to go and just one more thing every step of the way. Before the big incident everything was working perfectly to me. I do wish that the author had not revealed the big incident since I spent most of the book waiting for it to happen. Maybe it would have been better to just start with all of them in the hotel room and then going backwards from there to see how they all ended up there.

The setting of this school in Vermont felt a bit wrong for what was going on in the book. I think I would have gotten this rich entitled thing a bit more if it was a school where everyone was rich and running around acting above it all. But the kids in this book excluding Richard, stuck out weirdly at this school. I know this gets handwaved away later by them saying no other school would want them, but for things that played out later, it would have been better if they all had some knowledge of each other before they started college.

The ending felt like a mishmash. We get an epilogue on most characters in the book and Richard apparently feeling like he is stuck. I did not feel bad for Richard.