The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.

Review:

The Secret History was a book that left me speechless, yet at the same time, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was going to write here. There are so many things that I could write on this review, but this book is just such an experience that I don’t think I could justify how much this book affected me. I feel like if I write about this book from my perspective, I’ll be giving up this little private moment in my life that I wish to keep all to myself like a greedy king. It’s not like a book where you’re the only one who knows about it so you keep it to yourself so it’s only your little piece of this world because this book is already well known. But, I feel like this book can affect people in such a different way that this is my own little piece of the world that I can keep.

Back to a not so personal review, this book sent so many chills down my spine. There were so many amazing scenes and this novel really made you think. The question of whether there really is a “fatal flaw” or the struggle of realizing that deep down there really is the deathly desire for things to be picturesque at all costs was often conveyed in this book and created the perfect gothic mood. There’s an amazing scene in the beginning of the book where Julian talks about how many times true beauty is not the serene quality we like to associate it with, but often rather disturbing and we quiver before it. “Beauty is terror”. This was just one of many amazing scenes that not only scent chills down your spine and caused the hairs on your arms to stand, but also caused you to think back on so many things. This “beauty is terror” may be a considered morbid view point, but it was in fact thought provoking and used smartly in this book.

Characters:

Poor Richard, to be honest. He was mixed up in all of this just because he wanted to take Greek. Okay, maybe that’s an oversimplification, but we can’t deny the fact that if he just stuck to his original major he wouldn’t have had to deal with all of this “drama”. But, at the same time you also can’t deny the deep root his fascination with Henry, Camilla, Charles, Francis, and Bunny’s lifestyle had taken. There, once again, is that need for a picturesque life of scholarly study that Richard obviously wanted in the start. Plus after joining the class, his fascination only grew when the thrill of having total control truly took root.

Was Bunny my least favorite character? Yes, yes he was. He was very annoying and never failed to get on my nerves. He was just an overall jerk and not to be mean and say he had it coming, but he had it coming. While reading this book I just wanted to magically hop into the story and scream at Bunny to shut up. What he had coming is just something you’ll have to find out in the book itself and if you don’t want to read the book then I’m sure you could look it up online 😁, but I won’t spoil anything. I feel like a terrible person for saying he had it coming and if this were a situation in real life, I would not want anything to truly happen to him, but in the book Bunny was a jerk and was practically begging to get trouble.

Oh man, Henry seriously played everyone. He was obviously always in control and is seriously crazy by the end of the book. He was like the puppeteer and everyone else were his puppets. That scene towards the end of the book where Richard confronted Henry in his garden seriously sent chills down my spine (I know, I keep saying that). Henry was just taking care of those flowers while Richard was standing there and oh my god it was so eerie. Despite his craziness, exactly like the rest of the characters said, Henry still didn’t hold that same insanity in my eyes. He’s not my favorite character and I’m not really fond of him like all the characters where, but I still think of Henry as the character he was in the beginning of the book vs. the way he was in the end. I think this is actually an important part of the book because despite all of his flaws, everyone still loved him. Another twisted example of the idea that beauty is terror, one could say.

Conclusion:

The Secret History was an outstanding book that was thought provoking and atmospheric. The more I think about it, the more I love the book and have given it its rightful five stars. I normally don’t like giving five stars because I feel like I’ll read something in the future that will make me think the previous book didn’t truly need five stars, but I think this book deserves it. This was a truly chilling and gothic read.

Let’s Talk:
  • Have you read The Secret History?
  • Do you enjoy books considered fit for the “dark academia aesthetic”?
  • “Beauty is terror”, do you agree?

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