I should start by saying I hated this book and the only reason I finished it was so I could write a review and not feel guilty for leaving it unread and looking up the ending on Wikipeadia. Basically I did it for you, Cannonballers. All for you. To me, this book was a literary equivalent of the HBO show Girls. Annoying, pretentious, holier-than-thou, and self-centered. I wanted to punch every, single character in the face. And you know what? I think that’s exactly what Tartt had in mind.
Look, I get it. You’re not supposed to like these characters. These are the worst versions of people, people who only care about themselves and are so sure about their own brilliance in the smuggest ways possible. People who are wealthy and clueless and don’t have any regard for anyone else’s survival. Tartt writes them in such a way that, at times, I felt like I was reading a novel written by a smug university student who was convinced they’re going to be The Next Big Thing. And you know what? That’s not what I want to read. This book was highly recommended to me by a good friend, someone’s whose taste is normally inline with mine, but this was a miss.
Minor spoilers (as this is something that happens in the first few pages): this book is about how a group of college students kill one of their friends. The first half of the book is the build up, the second the fall out. These kids are a group of Classics students as some fancy, tony college in Vermont (I think it’s Vermont?) in the 80s (I think it’s the 80s?). The time frame, almost purposely, is vague and never quite matches up with it’s different references. Drug and alcohol use is rampant and these students, isolated from the rest of the school, seem to think they have laws and rules of their owns. Our narrator is a poor boy from California, joining this established group by lying about who he is and all but shoving his way in. There are lines in the book that are in ancient Greek, Latin, French…and are never really explained. I do not speak any of these languages and found myself frustrated.
There are not many books that, when I finish, make me feel stupid. Not as if the book has dulled me, but like I’m not smart enough to understand the jokes and references. I think books should be accessible, especially when they’re fictional novels. If nothing else, that was my biggest take-away from this book: that I wasn’t good enough for it. And that, my dear friends, makes it not good enough for me.