Release Date: April 13th 2004 by Vintage (first published September 1992)
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.
The Secret History follows Richard as he reminisces on his experience in college taking Classics courses with a mysterious professor and his very small class of students. Readers quickly learn that one of these students was murdered as Richard recounts the tale to the best of his abilities. If you like The Great Gatsby, you’ll like The Secret History. Both follow a wallflower protagonist who does not come from wealth and privilege. They’re accepted into the elite class and observe the goings on of these individuals with a certain distance.
The best way to describe The Secret History is sinister. Everything that happens has an undertone of evil, forbidding, and helplessness.
Tartt’s writing is flawless. Each sentence flows into the next beautifully creating the picturesque scene that is New England and its elite. Though the story is quite slow at times, the writing kept me engaged. Had it not been for the lyrical writing, I would have put the book down.
The Secret History is a slower paced novel. Readers become intimately aware of Richard’s mundane life and his thoughts and feelings about his friends. While it was a slog to read at times, it’s incredibly important as Tartt slowly unravels what happened and the characters’ involvement.
Overall, The Secret History is a beautifully written novel about intimate and isolated friendships.