Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Emotions raised by The Secret History

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The Secret History by Donna Tart has been an interesting read. I found the plot quite disturbing but it is the menacing tone and brooding mood of Henry the book that haunts me long after I have read the last page.

The story is of six scholars of Classic Greek and their teacher, living their own version of college life at Hampden. The narrator, Richard, is a scholarship student hiding his real identity from his rich new friends. His voice is non-intrusive but it is his perspective that dominates the events of the novel.

The book is complex and layered; gripping in its fatalistic simplicity. Although you know the core theme of the drama from the outset, you are no less surprised by the extenuating circumstances when the murder occurs.

The characters slowly unravel as time passes.

I have never found myself in such a fringe group, grappling with the meaning of life, killing people and struggling with the psychology of modern times, nor do I have a preference for extinct languages over modern ones, but I identified with the snowballing craziness of the plot.

It reminded me of times when you get in 'over your head' and while you *know* you are not treading the sensible path, you find yourself drawn along anyway. Your need to belong, to share history with people, is stronger than your ability to make ethical and appropriate decisions.

Like the puzzle of adolescence where you struggle for independence and self awareness and where experimentation is the norm, the characters get caught up in the flow of events without really cognising the consequences. Life is about emotion and the characters live to feel, not think. I liked that about the characterisation.

However, I could tell from early on in the book that their fraught connection was bound to erode. The characters themselves were destined to combust following the killing and their downward spiral was inevitable.

It is certainly one of the most engaging reads I have had in some time. Probably not for the faint hearted, but certainly one for those who appreciate good writing.

Have you read this novel? What were your thoughts on it?


Anonymous said...

I haven't read it, it sounds intriguing. I'm interested to read up on it.
I've just finished reading Room by Emma Donoghue and it was FULL ON, now ready for something lighter. Like Miffy. Or Green Eggs and Ham.

Alice Becomes said...

i haven't read it, but i have to say I enjoyed reading this review!

you give a great insight into the book..it makes me want to read the book even though I don't really like to read "dark" books - well, i never think that I want to read them but i actually find it hard to stop once I start!

Gill xo

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

I read it years ago. Can't remember what I thought of it. Might need to re-read with a more grown-up perspective. Great review!

Kristy said...

This sounds like a great read. The best recommendation for a book I've read in a while!

Quill and Ink Handmade said...

I haven't read it, but now I want to! Am about to finish up Jane Eyre, so will be looking for something all-consuming to follow up with. Great review! x

Lizeylou said...

Wow what a book! Think I may just have to add this to my list. Sadly my list is getting longer and longer and the time I have to read is getting shorter and shorter. Think this is the kind of book that may just get me hooked again though - thanks!!

Maxabella said...

More than anything I remember it making me think about the tenacity of connections and the grip people give others rather than face the possibility of loneliness. The need to fit in is incredibly disturbing for all of us at times. x

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