Here we are on January 3rd, and I’ve finished my first book of the year. I actually started reading it on December 28th, but it’s still a super quick read for me, as The Secret History is quite a chonk of a book.
The Secret History is kind of what I wanted Tartt‘s other popular novel, The Goldfinch, to be. The prologue (first chapter?) of the latter, set in an art museum where a bomb explodes, is amazingly beautiful, and the rest of the novel was kind of a letdown for me. The Secret History sustains the beauty of that scene. It’s beautifully constructed surprisingly fast-paced. At least I found it that way.
I’m having a hard time coming up with a general summary that doesn’t contain any spoilers, so I’ll quote the blurb on the back of the book, which, in retrospect, is more accurate than it seemed while I was reading: “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 they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.”
Okay, strike that. The blurb is a gross oversimplification of what actually goes on here. In the prologue, we discover that there’s been a murder and that narrator was somehow involved. The rest of the novel is about what happened, and Tartt spends much of that time developing the characters. Each character is complex, and their interactions are even more complex. I’m including such a vague description because the most interesting thing about this book is the character development – all of the characters have their own nuances and surprises that are worth the time it takes to discover them. The Secret History is one of those books, I think, that will haunt me for a while. I almost want to reread it immediately because I’m sure I missed a lot the first time.
In the end, this novel is a beautiful thriller, much like, I guess, The Goldfinch was. If you read that one and liked it (didn’t everyone read it despite it being really long?), you’ll probably like The Secret History even more. I think it’s a better novel, though I’m pretty sure Tartt’s skill would show in anything she writes. I’ll plan on reading her future novels as they come out. I’m generally not a thriller person, but these are written so beautifully that I can’t resist.
In other news, I got my first Book of the Month box today (that’s a referral link, btw)! I’m super impressed. Of course, I unpacked everything as soon as I got it, and the photo was an afterthought. It was packaged so well, with the book, a bookmark, a booklet, and a card about the app all shrink-wrapped securely onto a sheet of cardboard that sat snugly in the box. The book was pristine.
I’ve already ordered next month’s book (I’ve never heard of it, but BOTM appears to have an excellent book-choosing track record, so I’ll trust it), along with two add-ons that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I’ll post about that one when it arrives.
So. TLDR: Read The Secret History and The Goldfinch and probably anything else Donna Tartt decides to write. Another novel of hers, The Little Friend, has made it onto my TBR. It’s star rating on Goodreads isn’t as high, but I’m sure I’ll like it anyway.