Jamie's Reviews > The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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Mar 26, 11

Recommended for: Katie McCrackin
Read in September, 2007

Okay, this book. This book was a lot of fun, partially, I think, because it was written in this fashion which made determining whether this was past, present or future virtually impossible. It was very romantically written and I tend to go for that sort of thing: simple meals of tomato soup and skim milk, five college-aged students who drink tea as well as burbon, scotch and on occasion whiskey--but not with anything as muddled and middle-class as coke mixed in--no, they drink it on ice, in thick lead-glass tumblers while spending weekends in a shabby (as only the very wealthy can have) weekend "cottage" which is actually a massive Victorian on the New England coast with a grounds keeper.

The boys are called "eccentric" but eccentric doesn't quite cut it. They are like no boys I've ever met: dressing souly in dark suits and silken cravats, while the lone female is called Camilla, smokes, speaks with a gravely femme-fatale voice and wears over-sized cashmere sweaters and is compared, looks-wise, to Helen of Troy.

This being said, perhaps it's not the most believable of novels, pray tell, however, it is EXACTLY what I LOVE in novels. Granted, there's a murder and some ghastly stuff, but I would much prefer life if it were like this: if No Fear T-shirts had never been invented, if teenagers said "I suppose" and didn't own televisions. If I really had met a girl in college who kept dusty tea-cups and water glasses filled with dandilions on her bedside table.

It was a beautiful book with great character development. It got a little to "masterpiece theater" on me at the end and while one twist would have been enough, there was instead a teather of strings going every-which way...but man what a lovely way to get a little bored...It was so well written, so crisp and precise, so pretty and...novel-like. I haven't been so inspired by setting since Edith Wharton. Really.

This would have been, sans the creepy, the way I HOPED my liberal arts experience would be, instead of over-weight girls with fake tans and highlights, birth-control contrived boobs and Ann Taylor, Banana Republic wanna-be classy with dimpled upper arms. I never met a Camilla, Charles or Henry. What a shame...kind of. I really prefer books to people.

**I write on books and other stuff at www.snapshotnarrative.tumblr.com
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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by Christine (new)

Christine i want to read this more than "prague" now


Jamie Next time I see you I'll bring it back for you. I got the other one that it's compared to--Catastrophic Physics I forget whatever...but it's about an upperclass gal going from school to school. Kite runner's good too.


Melanie The last sentence ruined the review for me. ack.


message 4: by Alekka (new)

Alekka Alas, you must have gone to the wrong school as an undergrad.


Anna They do take coke!


Annabel Smith I find it frustrating how I couldn't tell if it was past, present or future. And i think Judy Ppovey's scenes were a lot more interesting than most of the dreamy Greek student scenes. Maybe I am vacuous!


message 7: by Ramin (new) - added it

Ramin This whole review ruined it for me. In coherent


Kelsey That last paragraph, wow. Spiteful much? Sorry you let how other people look ruin your college experience.
Anyway, as far as people saying they couldn't tell when it was set: the narrator says he comes from Silicon Valley and they do coke and mention freebase, so it has to be at least the mid-eighties.


message 9: by Nik (new) - added it

Nik Bramblett A shame that this otherwise useful review is so poorly edited (rife with misspellings and such) and injects irrelevant opinions about the review-writer's own less-than-optimum undergrad experience... *I* did my undergrad degree (in English) at Rollins College, and I'm comforted to know that one can have a vastly different "setting" for collegiate experience, complete with Ann Taylor and bubble-headed rich snotty-nosed brats, and still have a really enriching experience. One chooses to what extent to let factors like THAT influence one's experience. I gather that the characters in the novel make better choices. I'll read it.


Annabel Smith The characters in the novel DON'T make better choices!


message 11: by Nik (new) - added it

Nik Bramblett So, they hated school just like you did?


Annabel Smith No, Nik, I didn't write the review. And I didn't hate school.


message 13: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Lollar Could really do without the shot at fat people. Signed, a nice fat person


Jamie Wow. I wrote this review years ago and fast. ALL my reviews have misspellings (and are usually typed out on an iphone), there riddled with opinions and are totally random. If that type of thing distresses you (Nik with no c--) don't read them and move along. My feelings on my undergraduate experience made me read this book through a different lens and that's why they're included. I didn't write it for the Times, i wrote it bc I liked the book. Sorry you felt compelled to dump on a 21 year-old's review--but college was pretty fresh in my mind back then. Weirdo.


MomToKippy Great review.


Merrellmichael I have met exactly two Camilla's in my life. But never a Henry or the others. and certainly never a Julian.


Kimberly Greene Pssst. Vermont is not on the coast.


message 18: by Annie (new)

Annie Jamie: What are birth control-derived boobs (you want the dash in there, by the way)? And Kimberley Greene: Presumably they drive to a different state.


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