The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Frequently referred to as a modern classic or the perfect novel, The Secret History is a book I always recommend.
Reading this as an unruly teenager genuinely changed me. I saw a wonderful review online that described this book as an “intellectual gateway drug, a shot of adrenaline for the mind” and this encapsulates my reaction to it. Donna Tartt’s debut taught me patience as a reader, it is slow initially, incrementally building a pace.
This precocious, enthralling story centres around a charismatic classics professor and a group of bright, eccentric misfits at an elite American university. They discover a new way of thinking and living that is a world away from the monotonous existence of their contemporaries. As the influence of their teacher grows they begin to push the boundaries of normal morality as they gradually go from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.
Teaching myself Latin out of school meant I had no friends to discuss my growing love of Classics with and this book became almost a companion. I dreamt of joining this motley crew often and I definitely identified with that yearning to belong that Tartt captured so vividly with the narrator.
A murder mystery that for me is the ultimate literary thriller with allusions to Euripides and Dostoevsky, it was an overnight sensation. Many writers have attempted to capture that gothic, academic brooding quality that The Secret History evokes and having read some iterations it is my opinion that none do so as well.
People are either absolutely in love with this book or hate it and I think you can guess which camp I am in. Let me know in the comments if you agree.