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Book Review: The Secret History Is A Modern Classic

Book Review: The Secret History Is A New Modern Classic

The Secret History is the story of six Classics students at Hampden College, New England. It is told through the eyes of Richard Papen, a financial aid student from California desperately trying to escape the banal life his parents wish for him.

When Richard arrives at Hampden, he is told of an elitist group of students taught by Julian M. Naturally, he wants to join. Little did he know, this reckless decision would result in dire consequences that would haunt him and his new ‘friends’ for the rest of his life.

First of all, this book is pretty damn long. It may not look like much, but it’s actually over 600 pages long. I don’t know many authors who could sustain a gripping story throughout all those pages but Donna Tartt does it magnificently.

There was not a single part of The Secret History when I didn’t feel engaged and enthralled by the plot. I guarantee you will be in one of two states when reading this novel: tearing through the pages, desperate to find out what happens; or slowly savouring Tartt’s beautiful writing, never wanting to reach the end of this story. Tartt has this way of lulling you into a false sense of security and then ripping everything you thought you knew out at the seams.

The are seven main characters: Henry, Richard, Charles, Camilla, Francis, Bunny and Julian, their teacher. They are all despicable human beings and yet there’s something about them that draws you in. I guess that’s exactly how Richard got sucked into their elitist little group in the first place.

Each member of the group has their own eccentricities that you discover as the story unfolds and nothing is as it first seems. Each character has their own secrets but what’s most interesting is the relationship between all of them.

These characters are tied together by some sort of twisted bond that is completely captivating. They are all flawed but it is not until the very end of The Secret History that you find out just how messed up they all are.

I totally agree with the assertion that The Secret History is a modern classic. Instead of making us wonder what’s going to happen, Donna Tartt makes us fear it. We are told right from the outset that a murder has occurred and from then on you’re anticipating it, looking over your shoulder to check if the murderer is coming to get you.

The author and her characters draws strongly from Greek myths, little too strongly given what happens to them and the group ends up becoming something of a modern myth themselves.

To conclude, Donna Tartt is now ranked amongst my favourite authors. The Secret History is both twisted and beautiful at the same time dealing with friendship, love, desire, hedonism, jealousy and tragedy.

She tells a dark story but she tells it so well you can’t help but be entranced. There were a few sections that made me feel physically sick and others that I’ve put to memory amongst some of my favourite quotes.

The characters themselves are Tartt’s greatest triumph and there is no way that you won’t find yourself completely wrapped up in their story, both wishing you were part of their little group and thankful that you’re not. The Secret History is a must-read for all.

So there’s The Secret History book review! Have you read The Secret History? Who is your favourite character?

Buy The Secret History by Donna Tartt: 
Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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  1. 6th January 2017 / 12:05 PM

    That’s impressive that the story holds strong for that many pages, most books would get boring by that point x

  2. 6th January 2017 / 1:51 PM

    I was wondering what the books was about. The title alone is catchy, and to be honest, I was intrigued. It’s a great review that you did here too. You gave a glimpse of what can be expected without revealing anything. In other words, you told us about the book without telling us anything. LOL.

  3. kcalpesh
    6th January 2017 / 2:31 PM

    The story line looks gripping. I’ll take your word for the point that you stated that the author Donna Tart has been able to sustain the hold on the story through the 600 page long story. Kudos!!

  4. 6th January 2017 / 2:45 PM

    I really want to get back into reading this year so thank you for the recommendation! x

  5. Hannah Latoya Bond
    6th January 2017 / 3:41 PM

    I’ve never heard of this book before. It does sound like a really good one

  6. 6th January 2017 / 5:22 PM

    Wow, you have just made me want to grab this book and spend my day reading it. You have as well just made me realized that it has been a while since the last time I read good books like this one. I like how honest you’re in giving a good insights about this book. I’ll surely check this if I get the chance.

  7. 6th January 2017 / 6:07 PM

    I’m in need of new books this year – and now this is definitely going straight on my list! thanks

  8. 6th January 2017 / 6:09 PM

    This one has gone right on my reading list! In fact, I’ll be finishing my latest book today and I think I’m going to go straight to this one, it sounds fascinating. Thanks for the great review x

  9. Harriet @ Toby&Roo
    6th January 2017 / 6:21 PM

    I’ve never heard of this book but it sounds like a must read for sure!

    6th January 2017 / 9:50 PM

    Its the first time I hear about this book. The plot looks cool and I like it when you make the comparison between the book and Greek mythology! I am a fan of Stephen King, Dean Koontz mainly, I prefer this kind of books

  11. Serena Reidy
    7th January 2017 / 12:44 AM

    I’ve heard about this book before and it does sound really intriguing, but I am a bit put off by the length! After reading this review, I think I’ll give it a try!

  12. Laura
    7th January 2017 / 3:34 AM

    Not read this book before but I will certainly check it out. Love that the author covers lots of topics that I enjoyx xx

  13. Jimmy & Tina Durham
    7th January 2017 / 1:01 PM

    That would be an interesting read, I love the stories they make around the Hamptons being more elite and pretentious than what is realistically displayed, not to say that it isn’t prestigious! I will have to check this book out when I get a chance

  14. Melanie Edjourian
    7th January 2017 / 6:21 PM

    My goodness it sounds like a long book although if it’s a good read I don’t think that should matter.

  15. Catriona Stephen
    7th January 2017 / 6:36 PM

    Not read this one before, shall add it to the ever-growing list!

  16. Laveena Sengar
    7th January 2017 / 7:27 PM

    It takes a lot for me get into reading books m I am not much of reader when it comes to books. This particularly seems but again quite lengthy. Will look for one.

  17. Dena Jayne
    7th January 2017 / 7:54 PM

    I’m not much of a reader but sounds like a good read xo

  18. Sarahjane
    7th January 2017 / 11:53 PM

    I haven’t read this book but it sounds great! It sounds like you really enjoyed it so I’ll be adding it to my reading list! Thanks for sharing!

  19. Leah Shafik
    7th January 2017 / 11:57 PM

    You made this book sound so appealing, all 600 pages of it! I have a desire to ready 6 books this year (I know not many for a self confessed bookworm when I was young) but this sounds so good! x

  20. Karla Ramos
    8th January 2017 / 4:25 AM

    Wow, you made this book sound so interesting. I have been slacking of reading books, I used to read a lot. Maybe I should get back into the reading.

  21. 8th January 2017 / 8:00 AM

    Reading your review of The secret history I am both intrigued and fearful. The tale sounds dark but gripping and though not familiar with this author I want to read it and see her other works

  22. Mommy QueenElizabeth
    8th January 2017 / 12:57 PM

    Its been a while since i last read a book. It was last week and ive never moved the page since then. Kidding! But honestly i am guilty of not taking the time to read alot. This book, The Secret History seems to be a very interesting one. Intriguing as it may sound!

  23. Jackie
    8th January 2017 / 3:37 PM

    Wow. I am very enthralled by your review. Have you ever heard of the Korean movie called Old Boy? If you liked this book, you might like that movie as well if you can find a copy over there. You’ll probably like it as well. It’s the story of a man with a wife and a young daughter who one day just blacked out and woke up in a room that became his prison for 15 years. He had no idea what it was about. Fifteen years later he’s released somewhere only to discover that his wife was dead and he was framed for it and his daughter had gone missing. As he goes trying to find the reason behind his imprisonment, the answer is just the beginning of his real imprisonment.

  24. Annie Brooks
    9th January 2017 / 5:32 AM

    I am totally interested in this. New year resolution was to read more as I used to then technology landed in my hand! Reading Tom Michell the Penguin Story – which is very opposite to this book. However, this does sounds like my kind of book… I just need to keep myself undistracted over the length of it.

  25. Alyssa Tuangco
    9th January 2017 / 5:37 AM

    Wow, by only just your explanation the book seems so interesting immediately. I used to read books but have stopped, i think i’d go back and try this book. It is engaging tho it’s long but the story is interesting and I’m curious what’s going to happen at the end.

  26. nicolepaler
    16th January 2017 / 3:19 AM

    “We are told right from the outset that a murder has occurred and from
    then on you’re anticipating it, looking over your shoulder to check if
    the murderer is coming to get you.”

    This is what is drawing me to read said book. I think I’m gonna check it out because I am curious of the ending, if there really is a ‘murderer’ or if it was just a rouse to keep us distracted from the real thing happening. There are stories I’ve read that have made it happen so, wherein you’re so concentrated on the mystery that there are other things happening under the subcontext of the story that you only realize until the end. 😀

  27. Zwitsy
    19th January 2017 / 9:52 PM

    I haven’t read this book or any of the author’s works. However, I am quite interest by how this author make a twist of the story. By your short synopsis, it thrills me to know what is the story all about. do they have a soft copy of it? I’ll surely love to get one!

  28. 26th January 2017 / 11:30 PM

    I haven’t red this, sounds interesting and I love long books that I can get engrossed in so 600 pages sounds like my cup of tea

  29. 24th September 2018 / 10:45 AM

    I absolutely loved this book. I gave it a go because I’d heard so many good things about it (but I hated The Little Friend and so wasn’t holding out much hope for The Secret History). It’s definitely one of my favourites, and one that I’ll read again, finding new things every time and a new hatred/love for each character.

    In fact I wrote my own book review here: https://www.dreamofhome.co.uk/2018/01/18/book-review-the-secret-history-by-donna-tartt/

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