The Secret History by Donna Tartt

the secret history by donna tartt Published by Alfred A. Knopf, september 1922 Genres: adult Fiction NoveL, Thriller, suspense, mystery Pages: 544 Format: Paperback Source: Purchased Pacing: {4/5}

the secret history by donna tartt
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, september 1922
Genres: adult Fiction NoveL, Thriller, suspense, mystery
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pacing: {4/5}

He becomes intrigued and befriends a group of "upper class", privileged, spoiled,  bourgeois, snobby and somewhat socio-pathic group of students that study the Classics: Camilla Macauley and her brother Charles Maccauley, Edmund Bunny Corcoran {the murder victim} , Francis Abernathy, Henry Winter and Julian Morrow their morally incomprehensible professor to whom they worship and knows of their ill reputed behavior because he is the guardian of this secret society. All of their vices? With the exception of Professor Morrow? Pills and alcohol.

As stated by so many others, to which I whole heartedly agree. This doesn't read like a who-dun-it. We know who did it and from the books opener we know what was done, but what we don't know is why and furthermore what happens next leading up to the murder. I loved that Tartt eliminated the element of surprise right at the beginning. Yet, I was still enthralled in the behavior and the decisions of "the clique" as they planned the murder of one of their closes friends. 


I have not read a more captivating book this year since reading Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History'. 

I was completely transfixed on this book. Right in the beginning of the book Tartt's main character, Richard Papen, tells us that a murder took place and that "This is the only story he'll ever be able to tell. Papen is bred from a lower class California upbringing who is a scholarship student at Hamden College in Vermont. 

Photo by CiCi Ford

Photo by CiCi Ford


Papen feeling a bit like a foreigner in new territory; alone, with a desire to fit in is mesmerized by this group and their secrecy and eventually he finds himself in the midst of their dark world.

Papen, so ashamed of his upbringing, in comparison to the others lies his way into their upper class world by pretending to be something he's not. He takes extraordinary measures to cover up the truth about himself via materialism and replacing his past realities with glitzy fictitious tales to appear as if he truly belongs.  

Papen was my favorite character because I felt compassion for him. Although he allowed himself to get caught in the mix of mayhem in order to maintain a certain circle of friends and to negate being an "outsider, he was lost. I wanted to hug him and tell him to be himself LOL.  

Henry Winter was the groups leader. Henry was an autodidact who was as cold as winter ~ I connected his last name to his overall disposition. He was manipulative and charming, a deadly combination because it was quite simple for him to convince the others to participate in the crime. Camilla, Charles and Francis are all wealthy and quite aloof in their dealings with one another. And Bunny who will meet a deplorable fate was actually extremely annoying. He was boastful, a leech and brash. Tartt made certain that she wrote his character in a way that makes you unintentionally numb to his impending doom. He was not a likable character in the least. Tartt brilliantly wrote their actions in a way that seemed tenable. I also loved that Tartt did not write the gruesome details of the murder actually happening but more of a film-esq "fade to black" when the group caught him in a forest-y area near the University. 

The group hung on to Professor Morrow's every word. He often talked about the beauty of losing control. Lead by Henry, who wanted to test this theory, the group decides to in-act a ritual on a farmer's land and the farmer is murdered. Bunny was very angry that he was not included and begins to threaten everyone in the group with what he knows.  Their decision to end Bunny's life comes from fear of being exposed. 

Henry confides in Richard the groups plan to get rid of Bunny. I believe Henry, in his very systematic way, used Richard. He knew that Richard was weak and desperate to fit in. 

Every character in this book has questionable morals and principles. They do not operate on the level of normality that most humans operate. They are all unapologetically macabre and are never remorseful. What I felt was that each of them were cerebral, heinous and vile. 

Even as their lives fell apart due to trying to hide what they did as well as cope, they still had no sense of guilt really. Their innate narcissism only allowed them to have pity for themselves and not the persons life they too; a friend. This book was so well paced, a true page turner. I absolutely loved and have no problem labeling The Secret History a modern classic. 


My Rating:{5/5}


Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.
— Donna Tartt, The Secret History