Tuesday, July 3, 2012

the secret history

WARNING: This review has spoilers. I couldn't figure out how to put in a spoiler/hide feature, so for now the spoilers are in white. If you want to see them, just highlight the text :o)

I considered giving this 4 stars. If I could, it'd be 3.5.

At Hampden College in Vermont, a group of six close-knit friends are connected by their love of the Classics and Greek. They take almost all their classes together with the slightly mysterious but very inspiring Julian as their instructor. The group includes: (1) Henry, the most studious and wealthy of the group; (2) Francis, a flashy dresser with red hair; (3) Bunny, outgoing and rather obnoxious; (4,5) Charles and Camilla, twins who almost always wear white; and (6) Richard, the newcomer from California and our narrator. Most of them are from the Northeast. They have a penchant for being overly-dressed in their suits, ties, white dresses, and scarves. They drink a lot. They throw around money like crazy (most of the money being either Francis's or Henry's). And most importantly, they keep a lot of secrets.

The novel begins with Bunny's murder by the other five friends and the remainder of the book deals with the lead-up, explanation, and aftermath of the killing.

There are a lot of things I really loved about this book. First of all, the characters were unique and interesting, and I liked how their personalities were unveiled very slowly. The collegiate setting was well described, as was Francis's cottage, and all the descriptions of excess drinking and cold Vermont and late night talks made for an effective and absorbing setting. And of course, the basic idea of the plot (friends plotting to murder one of their group) is very intriguing. My issues with the book came in the details. There was one major thing that I wish had been explored/revealed more. If the bacchanal is at the heart of the story, why not tell us more about it? It was really only described once and quickly. I understand that they don't remember a lot, but still! But other details bothered me too, just because they had so much potential. Were Julian and Henry in some sort of relationship? What really happened with the first murdered man in the woods? Why/how exactly was Richard brought into the whole situation? Wouldn't that be a huge risk, since Richard is only a recent addition to the group? I know that some mystery novels like to leave unresolved bits, but in this case, there was so much potential for a more interesting story that it was disappointing. Plus, a few of my own guesses were more interesting (in my opinion) than the final outcome. I had strong suspicions that they didn't even kill a man the first time, that it was just a story they told Richard to justify Bunny's murder.

But overall, I did enjoy the book. It was very absorbing and I know I won't be forgetting the characters anytime soon.

TITLE: The Secret History
AUTHOR: Donna Tartt
PUBLICATION DATE: September 1992
VERDICT: 3/5 stars.

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