The Secret History

The Secret History - Donna Tartt Richard Papen gets more than he expected when he first arrives at tranquil (not to mention, elite) Hampden College and becomes one of only six Classics & Greek students, taught by the charismatic Julian Morrow. The accidental death of a local farmer forces the students to keep a constant eye on each other, afraid someone may buckle under the weight of this secret and go to the police to avoid their own jail time.

When Bunny (formally, Edmund), the most carefree of the group begins to crack under the pressure, Henry, the most meticulous and studious of the group suggests the only way to keep their secret is to keep Bunny quiet- permanently.

Now responsible for two deaths, the friends' relationships, along with each individual, begin to change as paranoia and distrust set in alongside the guilt of Bunny's death.

I found this novel to have a sizable amount of unnecessary "fluff," as well as being rather slow-moving between the monumental events, which take place quickly themselves, with much less detail and elaborations one would expect from the major scenes of the entire story line.

The excessive use of alliteration often seemed too much, unnecessary, to me. The references come mainly from ancient Greek philosophers, fitting for the students' area of expertise, but little-known to the common reader. The class discussions the author includes are long and in-depth, requiring a reread or two to understand their significance to the plot, and sometimes having no connection to the current situation the group faces, but to one so much farther ahead that I had forgotten completely about these references until I went back through to collect review material.

Tartt does present one of the most unique sets of characters I have seen. 'A strange group of outcasts at a prestigious New England college,' who have dedicated their college careers, and subsequently their lives, to pouring over long-forgotten texts written in Greek by long-forgotten authors, with a sprinkling of Latin and French. These become aids to transmit messages to each other in the presence of others. Written in second person, we can only learn of Richard's experiences, keeping the sense of intrigue and paranoia among the rest of the group.

My real frustration came at the very end of the novel. It is my belief that the resolution introduces more questions that it answers, denying the reader closure and making the book feel somehow unfinished.

Richard's words perfectly describes the novel while summing up his roller coaster first year at Hampden College- this is a novel "...of sin unpunished, of innocence destroyed..." Full of surprises and rife with brain-bending twists, The Secret History is a worthwhile read for thriller fans.