Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: The Secret History

Do you remember the uproar in the early nineties when Donna Tartt's The Secret History was published?  The kerfuffle was related to the fact that a young unknown, writer would get such a huge advance on her first novel.  As an aspiring writer, I was fascinated.  Here was this graduate of Bennington College, only a few years older than I, with a novel published by Knopf, no less.  She was living the life I thought I ought to have.  In high school, it had been my dream to go to Bennington (my parents wouldn't even let me apply) and become a writer.  Indeed, around the time that The Secret History was published, I made a point of searching for books by young Bennington grads (Jill Eisenstadt, Brett Easton Ellis, Jonathan Lethem too, although I didn't read him until later).




The Secret History is set at a small New England college.  Richard Papen is from California and new to the college.  He doesn't feel like he belongs, but then is allowed to join an exclusive classics tutorial with just five other students, who are a society unto themselves.  Richard is invited into the group, but remains a bit of an outsider.  The others, we eventually learn, don't share all their secrets with him. There's a murder--two murders actually--and, if not suspense, a hunger to see the secrets revealed.  I apologize for the cliche, but The Secret History really is a page turner.  I've read only a handful of books that I couldn't put down and this was one of them.  It's also that relatively rare phenomenon, a best-seller with literary merit.

Donna Tartt also wrote The Little Friend--a few scenes from it continue to haunt me, though I read it years ago, and! and! I just learned that her third novel, The Goldfinch, will be published this month!  I am very excited to read it.

I admit, it feels a bit like cheating to write about a best-seller from twenty years ago, that you all have probably read.  It has been taking me forever to get through my current book, which I thought would be the "assignment" for today.  On the other hand, The Secret History is one of those books I reread now and then because it was so good.  Who has read it?  What did you think?


10 comments:

  1. I've not read it, but now I shall track it down and put it on my list.

    I just finished "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood. It's based on a true story of a woman accused of murder in the mid-1800's.

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    1. I love Margaret Atwood, but I don't think I've read that one. I'll have to look for it.

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  2. Have read it, lent it liberally, replaced it twice and ADORE her writing. She is a genius. I think what grabbed me about the SH was knowing whodunnit right away, but reading on to find out WHY.

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    1. She IS a genius! We will have to compare notes after we've read The Goldfinch.

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  3. Heard of it but haven't read it, but thanks to you, it is now waiting for me on the Kindle.

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    1. Thanks! Let me know what you thought of it!

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  4. I loved The Secret History! It's the book I most often recommend to friends. Think I need to reread it.

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  5. the secret history is quite possibly my favourite book, and donna tartt is one of my favourite authors!
    it's her use of language that makes her books so special, she just has such a beautiful way of writing that wants you to read more, more, more.
    i've been wanting to read this again recently and after reading your review i'm itching to!

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  6. I had not read this and I stopped reading your review after the first paragraph to go download it on my Nook.

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  7. I read it a couple years ago and loved it. It really is absorbing.

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