“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.”
This is how the harrowing tale of Richard Papen and his five college classmates starts and right from that opening line I was hooked. It’s a murder mystery where they tell you who dies and who did it right up front and the reason you keep reading is to figure out the why.
In a small town in New England six students are enrolled in an exclusive “Classics” program at Hampden College. They translate Greek and Latin, they read Socrates and Plato, and they become a little too wrapped up in the romantic mythology of the Gods. Richard, who is seen as the outcast at first, slowly gains the trust of the five people he wants to impress the most. At the beginning everyone is steeped in mystery, you are not sure who is a friend or a foe. All that quickly changes as you, along with Richard, finally are brought into the inner sanctum of this scholarly bunch and learn about it’s sordid past. A secret that binds them together for the rest of their lives.
It’s a book that you will not want to put down once you open it. It takes you deep inside the minds of people who can all at once be charming and manipulative, people who are scared out of their senses and reach for something more just to get them through the day. You feel privileged to be brought into this secret society, via Richard, and you feel his despair and anguish as his friendships slowly start to unravel.
All at once sad, chilling, funny, and terrifying; The Secret History is a impeccably timed and controlled novel of the bonds of friendship and how far one will go to protect the ones that he holds closest to his heart. Donna Tartt commands the language on every page, so much so that not even a comma or an exasperated sigh is out of place. You feel as though you are in it every step of the way, an unseen observer standing sentry next to Richard as he puts the pieces together and finds out where his allegiances truly lie.