Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Secret History

A friend of mine suggested The Secret History some time ago and many other friends have simply raved about the book. Tumblr? Don't even get me started. The graphics that are created for this book are absolutely beautiful and there have been many times where beautiful graphics on Tumblr have been enough reason for me to pick up a book and give it a try. 

When I grabbed the book, I was surprised by two things: while it doesn't look very thick, it's thin pages so that makes up for a high page count and the font is tiny. There's a lot packed into this paperback and I was a little overwhelmed when I began to read it. 

Not only that, but the book is dense. I fell ill when I began this book and as usual, when I have a cold, I find it hard to concentrate on a lot of things. My head is stuffed and I'm struggling with breathing so how can I expel a lot of energy to much else? That didn't help me at all as I began this book because I found I couldn't read it very easily. There's a lot of beautiful, well-written language but so many intricate details that you're spending the majority of the start of the book wondering if you're missing something all due to the first pages. 

Right away, you know the main character killed a friend named Bunny. Well, he didn't do the physical part of the murder but he was heavily involved. So for the reader, you're immediately thrown into the end of the story and left to pick up the pieces, the tale, of how it got to that point. I wanted to pay attention, I wanted to take note of everything because I felt if I didn't, I'd miss on all the details necessary to understand why Bunny was killed. 

And so the story unfolds. You're taken into this odd world of a small liberal arts college in New England, something that I could relate to (although my small liberal arts college was in Pennsylvania, I feel they are often very similar [they being liberal arts colleges in general]). I feel that there is a distinct difference between the students we become familiar with, the characters who make our story, and the rest of the school. For the few instances that our main character (Richard) is interacting with the other students on campus you have a vivid example of typical college life. It's the style of college activities and behaviors that I am most familiar with and seem most real. But Richard doesn't often hang out with these students; in fact, he befriends a group of misfits who all seem to come from odd backgrounds of high class and behavior of people who seem to not quite fit into the time period. They study dead languages solely with one professor and their obsession for the past leads them to perform a ritual right that accidentally ends up with someone dead. Whoops.

That's where I felt it was a bit hard to believe. The snooty attitudes? The rich person air? That seemed easy to swallow but their ancient ritual participation seems... so strange. But that's what snowballs into the death of their friend and then, the destruction of the group caused by that death.

The book seemed to take ages to get to the major plot points: the ritual, the breaking of the group, the murder of Bunny, and the destruction that followed post his murder. The end of the book I found to be my favorite, even if it was the most depressing part of it (possibly? There's a lot of odd things that occur that are not necessarily joyful). Overall, the characters of this book are all pretty miserable human beings whom I found hard to appreciate in any way possible. They were awful.

But I give Tartt this, if she wanted us to have mixed feelings for these characters, she achieved that. She knows her stuff and she can write so, so very well. I was blown away by her writing, honestly, and hope to one day have that type of skill. The way she described the scenery and autumn days were my favorite. A few scenes they are on a lake and I felt I was right there with the characters. I loved, LOVED, her art of description.

My mind was not blown by this book, though. It's wonderful writing but the story took ages to get through and, as said previously, it's very, very dense. But I want to read more of her literary work, specifically The Goldfinch.

If you have the time and are interested in beautiful writing and a lot of material, give this book a try. If you have a short attention span, maybe give it a pass.

Last Week's Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Next Week's Review: Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barrey

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