The Secret History – Donna Tartt

So I just recently finished this one atmospheric of a book and it sent my heart thumping countless of times. And one reason for delay of its review is also partly because there is somehow no words adequate enough to portray the effect this book has on me. Nevertheless, let’s get to it before I am rendered speechless once more.

Lately I have been completely enthralled with books that involves a group of friends (E.g A Little Life, I’ll Be Right There”). Friends that go through ridiculous adventures together, acknowledging each others’ pain, then transforming and building each other up. Or, it could also be tumbling and rolling down the hill until just barely, hanging off the edge of morality. Just like The Secret History. But before I say anything, let’s give you the usual blurb.

Our Californian boy, Richard Papen finds himself in an elite, white picket fence private college¬†somewhere in New England. He meets this group of snooty Classics majors, and is immediately intrigued by their sheer intellectual creepy-ness, so to speak, and their charismatic lecturer. But soon enough, there he is inside the circle. However, on the first page (I kid you not), we will learn in Richard’s reflection that they have killed one in their midst.

Now, one might think: let’s just end the book right there! But no, no my friend because that’s what I thought too. This one-of-a-kind murder mystery is not about whodunit, but it’s about the forces that test a human’s limitations; just how far can we be pushed and to what extent that we go to defy the norms that keep civilization intact. Thus, despite how they are all Classics students, they seem to have ironically found themselves living inside a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy that they have studied all this time.

So you will find bits and bobs of history and philosophy about life, and most frequently about beauty in this book to which if you’re a self-proclaimed geek like me, would absolutely adore. “Beauty is terror. We quiver before it,” At that, do prepare a pen and paper to note down the scattered wisdoms in Greek and Latin.

Don’t let me begin on the atmosphere, for it is utterly good. You have a clock tower, a country house near a clear lake, the glow of autumn in Vermont that just made me gawk at the page because of how Tartt uses incredible descriptive imagery, bringing the world inside her head to life.

Okay, of all the years I’ve been loving books, Tom in The Great Gatsby has always been top of my favorite lonely narrator list and I think, Richard Papen is also pretty high up there. With nobody supporting him at home, in search of friends and himself, a new life at university is just what he needs. But instead, he is intoxicated by a group of conceited, eccentric youngsters with a knack in ancient languages and bizarre interests which unfortunately doesn’t make him better off than them in the end. But that’s just the thing, we can say that this book is full of terrible, terrible people but circumstances also leaves them deeply sympathetic in my eyes and you just have to read this gem to understand what I mean. So I will leave my final impression at this; beneath all the drama of corruption and betrayal, this is just as much of a book about friendship. It’s about our search for human connection, to be admired and appreciated and the emptiness that comes at the possibility and realization of losing it.

So, here’s a kickoff to my reading journey that has been on the rocks for much, much too long. Hope you enjoy this review.