I knew I wanted to tell people about this book before I had even finished reading it. It's been a couple months now since I finished it and I still think about it. That's a good story. It's the kind of book that forces you to stay up until 2am finishing chapter after chapter because something keeps happening. The Secret History is a pretty difficult to describe book, but I'll give it a shot.
Richard is the main character and we see everything through his eyes as he gets to know life at his weird little New England college with his weird little classmates. This perspective is very important because a lot is happening in this story that Richard doesn't understand. You as the reader don't understand either, but you know something very strange is going on. You're going to feel like this throughout the entire book. But! It's not one of those stories that makes you wait until the end to know what it is. Tartt just replaces one strange thing with the next, so you're always left wondering about something new.
Anyway, Richard meets this group of friends who all take classes with one professor who teaches only these six people. It seems like a very exclusive group and basically Richard just has to know what these weird students are always doing together and slowly he becomes friends with them. Very. Slowly. It's clear quickly that the group does very unusual things and that they don't trust Richard to know about them yet. Naturally, Richard does find out what's going on (to some degree) and things only progress and get wonderfully stranger from there.
As usual, when I really enjoy a book, it's full of really interesting characters. Richard has typical protagonist syndrome, meaning he's very normal and does what most of us would do in his place. That's fine because basically everyone else in the story is quirky and odd. All of the main characters taking the class together are studying the classics, Greek and Latin. Henry, the unofficial leader of the group, is so obsessed with the classics he seems to live his life like he's in one. This causes him to do a lot of insane, but fascinating things. There's Bunny, a poor kid at a fancy school who obnoxiously leans on his friends to fund his way through a luxurious lifestyle. There are the twins, Charles and Camilla. Charles is the nice guy who really helps Richard into the group and Camilla, being the only girl, is of course the beautiful, unattainable romantic figure in the story. And then there's Francis, sarcasm extraordinaire. Even their professor is kind of interesting. What teacher decides he's only going to teach six students and that he must teach them all of their classes?
Who Will Like This Book?
My first inclination is to call this book a page turner because it was for me. However, because of the length and description, I can see how some people would disagree. It's definitely a suspense novel. You're constantly trying to solve the puzzle. You're constantly wondering what's going to happen to these characters as they make tragic mistakes and everything unravels horrifically. It gets pretty dark in places, quite dark actually. If you have any love for the classics, you'll really enjoy this book but it's definitely not a requirement. There are a few points when the characters speak to each other in Latin (which I took in high school, but hardly remember) or reference an old myth, but you don't NEED to know about these things to enjoy the story.
It's hard to do this book justice with a description that doesn't spoil anything. It has a slow start and if you're like me, you wonder what the hype is about at first, but it becomes something very interesting as the story progresses. It's unique. I can't think of any book to compare it to. The bottom line is that I really enjoyed The Secret History and definitely stayed up too late reading it and wondering what's going to happen next. Give it a shot if you're in a reading rut! It could be just the thing to pull you out.