Punk's Reviews > The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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's review
Jun 10, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: queer, good-more-than-once
Read in August, 2013 , read count: 2

Fiction. A group of students learn Ancient Greek at a small Vermont college, but something's strange about their exclusive study sessions and reclusive professor. Our narrator starts out on the fringes of their group, but as he grows closer to them he also gets hopelessly entangled in their troubles.

I love this book. It's slow and mysterious, and it uses one of my favorite conceits: a close-knit group of misfit students clearly up to something, or about to be up to something. And I don't mean a college prank; I mean something weird and eerie and not quite right. Waking the Moon also fits into this category. I have them shelved right next to each other.

Our narrator, Richard, is kind of a boob, but you can't fault him for being curious about Francis, glamorous and gay; Henry, studious and secretive; Charlie and Camilla, fraternal twins, and Bunny, the gregarious playboy. All the characters -- except for Richard -- are lovingly observed and detailed, and it's wonderful to follow them through this mystery.

Five stars for hitting my buttons and with some truly lovely language to boot. Will definitely read again.
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Reading Progress

08/04/2013 marked as: currently-reading
08/06/2013 page 36
6.0% "Richard tells us he's an excellent liar and can think on his feet; except when he asks his boss for an unnecessary advance on his paycheck "for an emergency" and his boss asks what kind of emergency, Richard says, "I don't know." Yes, Richard, good job. I believe you."
08/15/2013 page 124
22.0% "Richard's absurd interlude in the freezing mandolin warehouse is so completely overwrought it actually makes me angry. It's like the third act of a gothic novel. Except Richard has no excuse for being so useless and pathetic." 2 comments
08/17/2013 page 158
28.0% "Richard fails, once again, to think on his feet. Later, Richard doesn't know where Argentina is."
08/18/2013 page 216
38.0% "Richard assures us he knows how to blend in. Like a chameleon."
08/19/2013 page 342
61.0% "In an attempt to determine what year this book is set in, I've been compiling a list of clues. In the order they appear in the book: professor has a "'98 Regency Brougham, ten years old"; man has walked on the moon; dyslexia; typewriter; TWA; Fleshtones poster; "1970s building"; Nixon; "boom boxes"; free-basing; cocaine; Free Bird; "rap song"; Xerox machine; Ecstasy; Jeopardy!" 1 comment
08/22/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Punk I first read this in 2003, and now again, ten years later in 2013, and I'm just going to let my 2003 review of this book stand. It seems I still agree with every word, and double agree with Richard being a sad sack. This time through I also noticed he's a liar—though it doesn't seem to affect the story much, only the way he presents himself to the reader—and his little interlude in the freezing mandolin warehouse is somehow even MORE annoying the second time around. Dammit, Richard, pull yourself together.

But the book stands up, not just because the language is rich and velvety, but because the mystery is so slow and layered that the whole second half of the book was kind of a surprise to me. I'd forgotten how it ended and I read the last third in one long feverish rush.

Dawn Marie Now read Tana French's "Into the Woods" so you can read Tana French's "The Likeness" and then live in a world where Henry moves to Ireland and changes his name. ::laughs maniacally::

Punk Yesss. I've been meaning to read that series. Maybe I'll start it next. I'm in the mood for a good mystery.

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