The Secret History - Donna Tartt

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.



The Secret History tells the story of Richard Papen, a poor boy from California, who starts his studies at an east coast college. Richard is particularly interested in ancient languages, so when he learns that an enigmatic professor teaches a group of handpicked students greek and latin, he is desperate to become a part of this group. As Richard gets aquintainted with his fellow students and becomes friends with them, things starts to unravel and at the end, Bunny will be dead.

The murder of Bunny isn´t a spoiler, because that he is getting killed is revealed on the first page of the book. Donna Tartt even tells the reader, who has done it. She just doesn´t tell, why it has happened and this is actually, what this book is about. So, why did Bunny have to die?


To tell the truth, I´m still in that same place where I have been two days ago right after finishing this book. How can I talk about it without getting into spoiler territory. It´s almost impossible. And I have so much to say about the story and especially about the characters, it´s killing me. But let me try anyway.


First off, this isn´t a murder mystery.Think of it as a character study, then you won´t be disappointed in the end. Why do this group of students decide to kill one of their own and what kind of implications does this have on their lives further on?

I had some trouble to get into the story at first. The first three chapters were rather slow paced, some passages even bored me and I didn´t like the charcters. But after having read the fourth chapter I was hooked and I had the hardest time to put this book down, it was that gripping. I´m not the most immersive reader, but I felt seriously distressed while reading some passages in this book. The story just took a hold of me and I had the weirdest thoughts while reading particular scenes. These were for example my thoughts while reading the pages leading up to Bunny´s demise :


"Oh my god, what are these people up to" - "Are you kidding me? You study greek, latin and the classics, you know nothing about the things you are just talking about. Believe me, it won´t work" - "Richard, you and I, we need to have a chat about your total lack of trust issues" -  "Huh, that might actually work" - "Bunny, you are supposed to be the most predictable person on this planet. Behave accordingly!"- "Oh god, I feel like I just murdered someone".


The only character that I want to shed a light on is Richard. He is the POV character and he tells his version of the story in retrospect. Which makes him an unreliable narrator, since he always is the odd one out in the group. The others don´t tell him everything and there are secrets upon secrets, that haven´t been revealed towards Richard (and subsequently the reader) at the end of the story. Which makes this novel a fascinating read, because you just keep mulling over the story in itself, the depravity of the characters and the moral responsibility of their actions. 


I absolutely loved this book. It´s amazing and spellbinding. I´m not sure if this is a book for anyone, though. If you want to have at least one likeable character in your novels, you should definitely stay clear of this book. There is not a single character with redeemable qualities to be found in this novel. And if you think you are going to read a murder mystery, you are going to be disappointed as well. But if you enjoy reading about messed up characters and you like reading literary fiction, you should definitely check The Secret History out.