Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Narrator: Donna Tartt
Published: 1992 Pages: 559
Audio Duration: 22 hours; 8 min
In Short: (I cheat and use Amazon) “A group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.”
Why I Read It: The Secret History
was selected as the October book club pick at A Real Bookstore
. We basically throw out titles and mutually agree. Incidentally, The Secret History is one of the top sellers at this bookstore.
Thoughts in General: There are a lot of things to like about The Secret History. It has a deliciously moody atmosphere and attention to academia that are both perfect for the autumn season and the writing is rich without being heavy. The characters are well-drawn but also provide just the right amount of mystique to keep the reader curious and attentive. Even though Bunny’s death is made apparent in the first pages, the novel’s plot unravels until the end of the novel.
All of these things are elements that I crave when I’m reading and at the beginning of this book I felt all of the promise. Until I turned on the audio. As soon as I started listening to the book I realized how terrible and unforgiving the characters are. They were shallow and despicable and had no redeeming qualities. And the book plodded on and on and on. But when I was reading I fell into the writing and was able to forgive all of these shortcomings. More and more, however, I felt annoyed with the characters and the book was beyond being saved in my good opinion.
Bottom Line: The Secret History is certainly a compelling story but it could have benefited from one hundred less pages and a big giant reality check for the characters who lived in lala-land. In the end it just wasn’t believable (was it supposed to be?) and while I did enjoy many aspects of the book (mostly the mood and mystique), looking back I can only seem to see the negatives (the deplorable characters and their actions). In book club we barely discussed the book at all—some couldn’t even finish it. But…lots of people really love this book. In a few words? Ennui over the top.
However, I do think The Secret History would make a great movie. I totally picture Michael Gladis
from Mad Men as Henry.
A Note on the Audio:
When I realized I wasn’t going to make it through the book before book club, I downloaded the audiobook from audible. The Secret History
is narrated by the author, Donna Tartt, and I strongly urge you not to listen to the audiobook if you plan on experiencing this book. Put very plainly, Tartt’s southern accent is all wrong for these characters—most of whom are northerners—and her tone inflection makes the characters sound scornful and callous. The narration greatly affected my reading of the novel.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this one if you’ve read it!
If you haven’t read The Secret History, is there a book that you’ve listened to on audio that ruined the book for you?