The Secret History

The Secret History is a debut novel for author Donna Tartt.  I noticed it on several websites and lists and picked up my copy to read.  The premise of the book is that a very exclusive society has formed at a small private college in the north east.  The society of five is immersed in the teachings of one professor, known as Julian.  The students are isolated in the intensive study of ancient Greek culture, language, and arts.  The more immersed they become in Julian’s clique he and teachings, the more removed they become from the college and the world as a whole.  The protagonist Richard, a new student to the college, manages to break into the inner circle and he follows them “down the rabbit hole”.  A murder occurs and the group, who considers themselves elite and definitley above the rules, deals with the fall out.  The murder uncovers the flaws in their group, the individual members, and even their worshipped professor.  The novel follows the splintering of Julian’s society and the tragic consequences for the students.

This was a compelling read, with intriguing albeit unlikeable characters, and an elitist tone.  The book manages to both put intellectualism on a pedestal and hold it up to intense scrutiny.  One of the critques of the books is the incorporation of anachronistic language and cultural references.  In reading the book, it appeared to me that this was purposeful technique of the author intending to highlight the groups removal from mainstream society.  As such, I was not put off by it. An Interesting, well written mystery that boasts  an intricate plot with little onscreen violence.

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