A friend recommended “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt and when he asked whether I’ve already read it some months later, I finally decided to do it.
After reading the dedication of the book which includes Bret Easton Ellis I had certain expectations and Donna Tartt fulfilled them. Rich kids on a liberal arts college in New England having rich kids’ problems. And as a fan of Ellis’ works, Tartt’s writing style appealed to me.
The first third of the book is quite a good read. It’s the setup. People get to know each other and the reader gets to know them and to feel that there’s something lurking behind the scenes.
The characters in the book are well designed and don’t feel too stereotypical. The most interesting of them is called Bunny and you actually get told on the first page of the book that he is going to be killed.
Between the setup and the killing itself, which happens roughly in the middle of the book, the author tries to make sure the reader understands that Bunny absolutely must be killed. That part is a bit long and somewhat tedious. It tries to play with psychology and with the decay of a troubled mind.
I actually started asking myself how long it would take Tartt to rescue the reader and the protagonists of the book and finally kill Bunny. Then it happened and I wondered somewhat skeptically what other great secrets might be hidden in the second half of the book, because actually the big secret that seemed to be lurking in the setup wasn’t really that big.
Those other secrets actually are quite disappointing. There are some twists and turns but nothing really stunning.
Tartt’s writing style makes up for the lack of an engaging story in the second half, but it’s not as satisfying as Ellis’. “The Secret History” is OK but it’s far from being outstanding and I fail to understand why it was and probably still is hyped as if it were.