This book was alright for me. Tana French's The Likeness was so much better. I will try to give my honest opinions on it, both of what is great ab This book was alright for me. Tana French's The Likeness was so much better. I will try to give my honest opinions on it, both of what is great about the Secret History and what are its shortcomings. I will inevitably compared this book to French because the concept of both books are strikingly similar, but since literature is a subjective area, I of course respect people's preference for one book over another. Warning: mild spoiler below in regarding to theme
1. There exist a group of five close-knitted liberal arts student who are outcasts and have predilection for an abstract, liberal-art like subject. In the case of Tartt, it was Greek mythology. In the case with French, it was literature.
2. They lived in an old, beautiful country house, detached from the world and they are the type of people who like to converse about Peloponnesian war or the tragedies of 19th century British Gothic novels as dinner talk. They are extremely intelligent, mysterious, charming, yet they all seem to hide something sinister beneath their polite facade.
3. Both stories revolved a murder of a student within the group, and the subsequent disintegration of said group . The person who is murdered are both revealed in the beginning of the story, so it's not a spoiler of who will be killed. In the case of Tartt, it was Bunny. In Tana French's, it was Lexie.
4. In both groups, there are some similar personalities: A cold and calculating de-facto leader, a guy who might or might not be homosexual, a charming girl who kind of reunites the group, a guy friend who is very friendly...etc. In both groups, there are some secrets that aren't revealed to outside member, and the group as a whole sometimes act very suspiciously. In both case, the main character (Richard in The Secret History and Cassie Maddox in The Likeness) try to understand what cause the murder to happen.
However Tartt had some failings:
The Secret History is way too long for its own good . It was around 600 pages. Initially, it has a great buildup, but it falls flat around 200-300 mark since the murder is revealed by the middle of the book, and 50% of the rest of the book is just one tragedy set after another... dragging on and on and on. What Tartt don't realize is that once I know why Bunny is murdered, I don't give a FUCK about how these kids are suffering anymore, because I cannot sympathize with them after I learn why they kill Bunny, which brings me to my next point:
The motive of the murder : I will not give away the spoiler, but in Tartt's case, it was an EXTREMELY SELFISH reason. It was quite selfish that even though I was quite intrigued with the ideology that leads to the murder itself, (which, minor spoiler, is kind of about hedonism) just make me say: Uhm, these kids are so fucking privileged and I feel 0 ounce of sympathy to them now. I don't even care if shit happen to them. .
In the case of The Likeness: - French had an interesting synopsis: there's a detective who infiltrate the friend group to discover the murderer. There was always some tension. Who is the killer? Why did he/she kill the girl? Will the detective be safe if she lived in the house with a murderer?
Tartt's on the other hand doesn't really have that much tension. Sure, it seem the group in The Secret History kinda hate Bunny but uhm, that's expected by the reader because Bunny is end up murdered. There wasn't much going on in the first half actually. All the kids do are smoking, drinking, and talking boring stuff. There was some odd behavior but it is all revealed by the middle of the book so that's that. The Likeness, on the other hand, has a detective going around hunting for clues, so we are thrilled to turn the page as more and more stuffs are uncovered and the twist isn't revealed until the very end.
- The motive of the murder in The Likeness is much more sympathetic. French's murder goes along the line of friendship, love and an unrequited obsession with the unobtainable. It is more tragic in the sense that we slowly come to love these close-knitted liberal arts student and identify with their idealism, whereas in Tartt it was unrealistic and selfish, and also quite accidental and stupid, in my opinion.
The best thing about the Secret History is basically the prose. It is written in the veins of Neo-Romanticism style and the atmosphere is so amazing that you feel like you are transported to Hampden College and lives with these students. I also love the main character, Richard Papen, and I do feel like I identify with him somewhat, alongside with Henry Winter. But other characters seem to be these cardboard cutout of wanna be literary theorists and I-am-smarter-than-thou-and-too unique-for-this-world. This get old fast when we readers are treated with pages of purple prose description with basically nothing going on beside Papen's mental meltdown, these kids go to a picnic, play piano, read book, eat dinner, go to sleep . And once the whydunit is revealed, we already lost interest and can't be bothered to give a shit about these characters. It's like Wuthering Heights , whining, melodramatic and boring. I don't feel the warmth and closeness of the group in The Secret History as I did with The Likeness.
Again, these are just my opinions though, I am pretty sure other enjoy more about the story's literary merit more than I do....more
Hmmm this is quite a difficult book to write a review, and from what I've seen on Goodreads, people either love it or hate it. I have ambiguous feelinHmmm this is quite a difficult book to write a review, and from what I've seen on Goodreads, people either love it or hate it. I have ambiguous feelings about this one, however, and in the end, it's all a matter of taste. 1. The Prose : it is absolutely gorgeous. It is a suicidal book that leaves you a feeling of nostalgia, as if you were there with the protagonists, a group of boys, and watch the Lisbon girls across the street through your window. You are gushed along with their obsessions, and since you are under their point of view, you feel as if the Lisbon girls are so special, fairy-like, mischevious, intelligent, moody and beautiful. 2. The Implications : Since we never know what exactly went through the Lisbon's girl heads, we can only assume what drive them to their suicide. There was a hint of an overbearing, religious mother, a prison that is their house, a repression of expression, a lack of attention, neglect, poverty and of course, isolation. These themes are touched upon slightly by the author, and I wish he goes more in depth. It feels like we, as the readers, feels something is going on, but like the neighbors of the Lisbon, we never know exactly is going on. Perhaps that is the intention of the author - to distance us from the Lisbon, to make them like these manic pixie dream girls who are marked for unavoidable death, and we are left to question their decision and piece the puzzles back together. However, sometimes it make you feel quite apathetic about their suicide because you cannot identify with them in the first place. You never know them individually, except perhaps maybe for the promiscuous Lux. Cecilia, Therese, Bonnie and Mary are barely given a personality and seem to exist as a single entity. 3. The Mother and the symbolism of a religious, conservative America : This is my favorite part of the book. I think Mrs. Lisbon's character is not unsurprising - the helicopter mother who is afraid to get their daughter out in the world, who burns her daughter's rock and roll music and forces her to listen to Christian songs, who prevents the Lisbon sisters from reading magazines and make them wear clunky, long dresses, who wipes Lux's lipstick and make her change to a less revealing top, who chaperoned their party and prevent them from ever having a normal life, who homeschools them and even fail to realize that her daughters are already dead inside. She thought that she is protecting them from the impurities of the world but she failed to realize that by enforcing her opinions upon them, she is locking them up and slowly smothering them. What's worse is that Mrs. Lisbon never realized, or it seemed, what she had done wrong. She thought her actions are under the guise of love. In the end , I really love the subtleties and the characterization in this book. I feel like there are so many great things to be derived from it, but at the same time, I feel like there is still a feeling of unsatisfaction. I want something more horror, more tragic, that hits you hard but this book just seem like an old film replaying back a complacent, buried memories. I also wish that the author doesn't outrightly mention the suicides at the beginning. Perhaps that will hit me harder with the depressing, twisted ending. ...more
Not sure how to feel about this. I enjoy reading Sartre's concept of atheistic existentialism, but once I move onto bad faith with all the jargon on fNot sure how to feel about this. I enjoy reading Sartre's concept of atheistic existentialism, but once I move onto bad faith with all the jargon on facticity and transcendence, it's a little bit confusing. However, I definitely like his concept of man being condemned to be free, absence of a priori, and forlornness. ...more
Socrates' argument is terribly weak in this one, as if he seemed to defend some kind of monarchical/tyrannical state. At any rate, it was a 5-star booSocrates' argument is terribly weak in this one, as if he seemed to defend some kind of monarchical/tyrannical state. At any rate, it was a 5-star book since I enjoy reading through his argument and work on my rebuttal essay. ...more
Tana French outdo herself again with this novel. I like this even more than In The Woods. - The characters: I swear to god, this woman is an expertTana French outdo herself again with this novel. I like this even more than In The Woods. - The characters: I swear to god, this woman is an expert when it came to characterization. Everyone in this novel felt so real, from their little tiny habit to their temperament to their quotes, that you cannot helped but feel empathizing with them. They seem to you like long lost friends that are heading towards an unstoppable tragedy and you can do nothing except watching them unravel into a mess as they try to helplessly rationalize themselves out of it.
Some people are little Chernobyls, shimmering with silent, spreading poison: get anywhere near them and every breath you take will wreck you from the inside out.”
My favorite of course is Cassie Maddox . You can see how she try to keep her shit together working as an undercover, how she want to belong to these people, how she admire their esoteric knowledge on literature, their closeness, and their warmth but at the same time she had to coldly work out who, out of all these seemingly charming and intelligent literature student, is the murderer. And gosh, Daniel March. I totally love this guy: rational, cold, intense, and I love his rant on society, politics, economy, his obsession with an ideal and the extend of which he sacrificed himself to it. Completely mad and beautiful.
- The atmosphere : Tana French once said in her interview that she doesn't care much for the gory detail when it comes to detective novels, but she want to scare us psychologically, and French does an amazing job in that. I hate detective novels that are too focused on the technical details, while their characters are bland and nothing more than a plot device. In French's novels, she show how beautiful human beings are just as how cruel they can be. Everything is not as seem and you, as a reader, like Cassie Maddox, is constantly oscillating between wanting to suspect someone yet at the same time afraid to hurt them. This ambiguity when it came to actions, words, and morality is what make The Likeness unique. Like Daniel March proclaimed about his disillusion with mankind:
"The idea was flawed, of course," he said irritably. "Innately and fatally flawed. It depended on two of the human race's greatest myths: the possibility of permanence, and the simplicity of human nature. Both of which are all well and good in literature, but the purest fantasy outside the covers of a book. Our story should have stopped that night with the cold cocoa, the night we moved in: and they all lived happily ever after, the end. Inconveniently, however, real life demanded that we keep on living.”
- Lastly, the prose: This woman is a master with words. Ditch that stupid 50 shades of Grey lame ass repetitiveness and 5 year old vocabulary, take up some French novels instead. Tana really showed how she can hurt you with her words and make you fall in love with them.
“It took my breath away, that evening. If you've ever dreamed that you walked into your best-loved book or film or TV program, then maybe you've got some idea how it felt: things coming alive around you, strange and new and utterly familiar at the same time; the catch in your heartbeat as you move through the rooms that had such a vivid untouchable life in your mind, as your feet actually touch the carpet, as you breathe the air; the odd, secret glow of warmth as these people you've been watching for so long, from so far away, open their circle and sweep you into it.” ...more
Socrates: But if in fact what is dear to the gods and the holy were the same, my friend, then, if the holy were loved because it is holy, what is deaSocrates: But if in fact what is dear to the gods and the holy were the same, my friend, then, if the holy were loved because it is holy, what is dear to the gods would be loved because it is dear to the gods; but if what is dear to the gods were dear to the gods because the gods love it, the holy would be holy because it is loved. But as it is, you see, the opposite is true, and the two are completely different. For the one (what is dear to the gods) is of the sort to be loved because it is loved; the other (the holy), because it is of the sort to be loved, therefore is loved. It would seem, Euthyphro, that when you asked what the holy is, you did not mean to make its nature and reality clear to me; you mentioned a mere affection of it--the holy has been so affected as to be loved by all the gods. But what it really is, you have not yet said. So if you please, Euthyphro, do not conceal things from me! Start again from the beginning and tell me what sort of thing the holy is. We will not quarrel over whether it is loved by the gods, or whether it is affected in other ways. Tell me in earnest: what is the holy and unholy?
Euthyphro: Fuck... why am I friend with this dude again? ...more
One of the best collection of short stories I ever read. As a follower of historical fiction and psychological thrillers, I rarely approach science fiOne of the best collection of short stories I ever read. As a follower of historical fiction and psychological thrillers, I rarely approach science fiction because I think I will be bombarded with all the terminology and jargon. I, Robot disproved that. This book is amazing in its approach with robot. Its introduction of the Three Law of Robotics and the dilemma associated with such laws make interesting story. My favorite one got to be Runaround, Liar and especially The Lost Little Robot. Evidence was amazing as well....more
I remember really enjoy this short story and read it a long time ago, but somehow I forgot to rate it on Goodreads. Well, here for four stars, thoughI remember really enjoy this short story and read it a long time ago, but somehow I forgot to rate it on Goodreads. Well, here for four stars, though I wish more actions happen. Since this is a short story, perhaps there are others that explore the Cthulhu mythos as well. ...more