Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Secret History

Maggie says:
Last night I finished re-reading one of my all-time favorite novels, The Secret History. This was Donna Tartt's first novel, a fact that never fails to blow me away when I read it. It's hard describing this book, actually - I saw a review calling it an "intellectual thriller," but I'm not so sure, because it's not exactly a "thrilling" read. It's more of a character study drenched in the classics, a story about fitting in (or not) colored with eccentricity, money, and intrigue. It's also a book about crime, about two crimes, actually.

And this brings up an interesting point: what is it about me and novels dealing with the psychological effects of commiting criminal acts? I ask because another all-time favorite classic is Crime and Punishment, where we sift through Raskolnikov's internal reactions to killing someone. In The Secret History, we live through all the characters' reactions to their crimes and to each other. What's fascinating about this book is how often your perceptions of the characters change with her storytelling, which shows to me how gifted Tartt is to have us rethink every person in this clique of overly cerebral and self-important students.

I first read this way back in high school and did a presentation of it in the first week of AP English, kind of a nerdy "what I read this summer" thing. My English teacher asked me to borrow it, but after reading it, told me she just didn't get it and that perhaps "it was too smart" for her. Nothing was too smart for Mrs. Umstead, but that goes to show that this book is not for everyone. But if my little ode to this group of students and their crimes intrigue you, I whole-heartedly recommend reading this book.


Blogger mjae said...

Weird! I think I read it. When did this come out? If I read it, it would have been in 1997 or 98.

It's a group of college students, right? At a fancy liberal arts school?

That is so bizarre to have a half memory of a book. It's like remembering a dream from years ago.

Maybe it's not the same book, but I remember my roommate at the time gave it to me to read, and I remember him freaking out about how good it was for a first novel.

8:26 AM  
Blogger marjorie said...

I'd like to read this book, Maggie. You've inspired me -- perhaps I will do a review of Independent People now...a book which is at the top of my list now.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

It was published in '92. Yep, group of college students at a ficticious Vermont college that is based on Bennington. They speak Greek to each other and are in their own little world? You probably did read it - it was a pretty big deal when it came out. I reread it about once every five years. Next time I see you guys I'll bring it to you.

1:12 PM  

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