Review: “The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt

Just finished this book. It was a long and glaring bore for a while. Like many cats in a dark room, one wonders where will be the first strike to determine your and others’ location and initiation of a response or reaction. One way you can tell a book is good is when it sticks in your mind and does not leave so readily and quickly afterward. I keep thinking about the characters and wondering what they could have done differently to make their lives more meaningful besides being bored, agitated, or curious about each others’ mental make-up. I keep thinking what the author should have said or did about such and such and theretofore, having a conversation as it were with the author, but in my head.

If anyone wants to know how wealthy and petulant upper middle class college students behave, this is a great book to read. You will also find out how shallow, how sorrowful, and how screwed up they are in spite of their I.Q.s, or how well supplied lives they have been given with opportunities, and how instantly lost they can get being on their own.

With tons of liquor, drugs, sex, and freedom, the old phrase makes sense: give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. But as I said, a book is good when you cannot get it out of your head. I feel a certain sympathy for those kids, a certain care for their thoughts and a certain hatred toward their professors who train their minds to respect ancient literary archetypes and myth, but don’t encourage self respect and respect for those currently in their lives. They value very little the life they have and do not have a sense of gratefulness for their station in life, as it could pertain to uplifting others.

It is worth a read though. It is 523 pages worth of harrowing thought processes from strange young people who delve into murderous behavior, but the consequences are appropriate in the end. If the author’s story has truth in it due to her actually living the life in this manner and type of education–and I believe she is well educated and from a well established home– then I must say, now I understand why we have so many screwed up rich people, and so many suicides in general. Thanks Donna Tartt. By the way, she won the Pulitzer Prize for this book, so read it, it will shake you up a bit.

While we’re at it, let me mention: this is the second book I’ve read of this author. She is astute, amazing, a great writer, which is why I keep coming back to her. I need to read another of her books, she keeps getting accolades for her work, and I see why. The next book, after this one, and “The Goldfinch”–which, by the way has been made into a television movie (I was not impressed with the movie maker, who did not seem to really grasp the inner depth of the characters)–I am going to read “The Little Friend.” I will let you know how that one goes, I already told you about “The Goldfinch,” loved it, and now this one, I must grudgingly say, I loved it too.

About L.Nolan, Editor

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