The Secret History by Donna Tartt - Book Review by Megan
‘Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it’.
Donna Tartt’s debut novel follows Richard Papen, who joins a selective group of classics majors at a prestigious liberal arts university in Hampden, Vermont, and descend into moral decrepitude and murder.
I am often averse to reading books that reveals something as monumentous as murder in the prologue, but The Secret History is an exception. The characters are deeply flawed but impossible to hate. Between their Sunday evening dinners at Charles and Camilla’s (who are, strangely, siblings!) and Henry’s diary written in Latin so his classmate won’t know what he’s saying about them, you will struggle to escape the romanticism of academia. Tartt’s writing is hauntingly beautiful. She capably dons everything, murder and studying alike, in a chaotic allure.
My expectations were high when I started this book. The Secret History is a cult classic, and many friends have pushed this novel on me. It exceeded every harsh expectation I set. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is now my favourite book.
Though Donna Tartt is best recognised as author of The Goldfinch, The Secret History deserves more recognition. Her characters are perfectly imperfect. They make mistakes, at times, just like the rest of us and, at other times, far worse than we probably would. Yet, they are just as human.
I recommend this book to anyone wishing to become entangled in a beautifully written novel about classical literature, murder, and a dysfunctional group of students. There are plenty of twists and revelations that will keep you up past two am, but it is worth the extra coffee you will need the next day. There are a lot of dark and adult themes in The Secret History, so be warned before you scramble to order yourself a copy - though, you still should!
P.S, Definitely Google the Latin