I remember the media adoration and critical love when The Goldfinch was released (Donna Tartt’s latest novel and Pulitzer Prize Winner). I passed on the chance to read it, instead sticking to my Amazon list – you can’t tell I’m goal-oriented, can you?
The Secret History is Tartt’s first novel, written while she was in college and published soon after. As a Creative Writing student, the story and writing of this novel were intimidating; I found myself questioning whether this was actually her first novel or not because it was so good and because I was so drawn in by the story. The main character, Richard, is who a reader might expect to find in a Beat novel: bored with his minimal existence, searching for a higher ideal and more stimulating surroundings, and to the reader, lazy. His admittance at the beginning of the novel will immediately draw the reader into this tangled story with all its relationships and hidden secrets. The group of students Richard falls into has established itself and has a reputation, as does their professor, Julian, who only teaches a select group of students each year. Quotes and allusions are thrown about as both the professor and students attempt to make their existence more worthwhile than those around them, when in fact Tartt reveals their worlds falling apart throughout the story.
This novel is about a murder, yes, but it is also about the interactions of peers, the relationship of self and secret, and how the self seeks to distinguish itself from others. While the book is long, it is suspenseful, making each page a necessary addition to the story – each detail begins to add subtle nuances to the characters and to the story. A highly recommended read for all.