The Secret History

Danger -
Obsession -
It's tantalizing tension and anticipation in The Secret History
Donna Tartt
Publication Date
Apr 13, 2014
Number of Pages

Honest confession: the first thing I noticed in this book was Donna Tartt’s perfect (and utterly beautiful) use of punctuation.  Now, I am no punctuation nerd but the punctuation in The Secret History was impeccable and I couldn’t help but ogle.

Honest confession no. 2: I wrote admire rather than ogle at first because I was doing that as well as drooling over every perfect use of a comma.

Right, nerdiness aside, The Secret History was utterly brilliant. I started reading it at Remedy Coffee in Auckland central.  It’s a cute little café with piles of books everywhere – how could I resist?  I was immediately hooked. I was a bit daunted by its length but once I started reading it, I didn’t want to stop.

The Secret History is the story of Richard Papen who gets accepted to attend an illustrious New England college on scholarship. There he encounters a group of five, tight-knit students.  All of whom study Classics, Latin and history with one professor. The group intrigues him and he immediately makes plans to infiltrate their group. He succeeds.

As Richard is invited to more parties, lunches and events, his friendship with his classmates grows deeper and they open up to him. And, though this sounds promising for Richard, his new friends come with secrets, dark secrets.

The beauty of The Secret History lies not only in its punctuation, but in its wonderful characters. I was just as entranced as Richard when I met Henry, Bunny, Francis, Camilla and Charles and especially Julian, their enigmatic teacher.  Julian handpicked the group and keeps them secluded.  He encourages their learning even when it takes a dark and dangerous turn.

The story unfolds so easily.  I didn’t realise how much of the book I had already read until I put it down for a break.  Tartt kept dropping foreboding pieces of foreshadowing that I would read, pass and flick back to and read again. Wait…what did I just read? What was going to happen?! I can tell you that there were a lot of two syllable, appreciative “Daaaaamns” going through my head while reading this book.

The Secret History was my first Donna Tartt book. Everyone that I know who has read her (and that is many people - I’m truly the last to come to the party on this one) has a giant lady crush on her, her brain and her amazing style. I’ve now joined the fan club and know that if I ever met her I’d be giddy and end up saying something very embarrassing.

Until that happens, I have decided to take a large break between Tartt books because there aren’t many of them and if I read them all in one go, then what would I read next? I can’t wait another 5 years for the next one to come out!

Donna Tartt’s writing is outstanding, her plot is pacey, racey and amazing and I was drawn into the secret college society. Things this good must be savoured.

About the Contributor

This is Maiko. She’s liked books since forever, which is how she ended up working in publishing. Her favorite author is now, and forever will be, Tamora Pierce (and not only because Prince Jonathan was her first book crush). She’ll read anything (unless it’s Austen) and especially loves folklore and myth. Her current addictions are radio-drama podcasts, movies starring Domhnall Gleeson and going for extravagantly long walks. She’s based in London and currently works for Hachette.