Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Secret History

Donna Tartt

A moi, l'histoire d'une de mes folies...

We were talking about Donna Tartt, about her second book after the wildly successful The Secret History, and *SPOILER ALERT* how you never find out how the kid goes missing. I felt cheated, conned, and kept flicking ahead in this mammoth book to see if the mystery was ever revealed. But no. Yet in the film Picnic at Hanging Rock *SPOILER ALERT* it in no way detracts from the film, in fact in adds to the mystery and power of it, that you never know how the girls went missing. Why it should work in a film, but not for a book, I have no idea.

Anyway, The Secret History is great, you should read it. Boys seem to like it less than girls though - P's friend Johnny got half way through P's copy of it then decided to frisbee it out of his bedroom window into the garden. I love it.

So Richard grows up lonely and bored in the Californian suburbs, and in an attempt to escape his grim family and tedious existence, he applies to college as far east as he can get. He falls in with the mysterious, cliquey students who study Greek, and gets so drawn into their world that his loyalty extends to covering up for murder (no need for spoiler alerts as the murder is referred to on page 1.)

I love the way it describes falling in love, not just with one person, but with a whole group of people. That group dynamic is very familiar, the shifting of power and changing relationships within a group. And the psychological truthfulness of it, how everything invariably unravels. Richard goes from outsider to insider, back to outsider again. I take my hat off to women who write brilliantly from the viewpoint of a male character, too. (see also Rose Tremain, Anne Tyler...) And the low key way she writes about unrequited love. Sniff.


  1. I loved this book and git through it with a bit of pain. I tried to read it a second time and I could just not get through it again. I remember the story well though.

  2. Hi CiscoKid. That happens, sometimes. Guess it depends on your mood.

  3. I felt I'd found treasure when this came out.
    'The romance of the group' is one of the ideas she works best with - the homage to Carson McCullers is clear but she makes it her own.

    It's more satisfying to throw paperbacks than hardbacks. I've thrown a lot of Hardy but always go fetch and finish.

  4. I think I've thrown Fay Weldon a couple of times. This could be a post all of its own - Book Rage.

    I think I read the Heart is a Lonely Hunter but not too familiar with her books.

  5. much later......'The Member of the Wedding' was the McCullers I was thinking of....