Richard is a Californian, kind of poor kid that goes off to college on the East Coast. He is also kind of lost: he’s already changed his major twice, and now he chooses to study only Greek (and a little French) knowing fully well that it won’t lead to any job opportunities later on. There is an air of mystery surrounding the Greek professor and his select few students. Richard is in awe of them. Their world, partly because they come from rich families, is like a parallel universe that exists just next to the one the rest of the college students live and study in. Richard and his newfound friends lead lives of no accountability. They are hedonistic, lazy, often immoral. Soon enough though he gets caught up in more than he bargained for.
I was surprised to see that The Secret History by Donna Tartt came out in 1992. I knew it’s been out for years, a hyped book that’s been making the rounds in book clubs and online review sites, but I didn’t know it was that old. I was late to the party yet again, only slightly spoiled by other people’s reviews. I knew, for instance, that the book was unnecessarily long. I found myself agreeing with those people more than once while reading. Some passages seemed to serve no purpose other than to help Tartt meet some word-count quota. Our main characters moved about a lot, and these movements were portrayed in detail, involving even their trips to the kitchen to get something to eat.
Yet I found myself reading greedily, finding these ordinarily mundane events to be really exciting. You know how they say that someone’s voice is so smooth or sexy that they could listen to that person read the telephone book for hours? This is similar. I could read Tartt’s descriptions of paint drying. Her writing is exciting, beautiful, vivid, without being heavy. Her characters come to life, attractive despite their (many and serious) flaws, and at the same time despicable despite their humanity.
I found the structure of this book a bit unorthodox, with what I consider the main event happening in the middle of the book while there were still 250 pages left. Things kept happening after that, the aftermath of this event laid out in detail, which I felt could have been compressed into maybe 50 pages instead. Still, like I said: I couldn’t put the book down.
I’m giving the book four stars, instead of five, only because of its unnecessary length.