Monday, 10 June 2013

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

5 stars

From the very first sentence of this book, I was hooked - desperate to know how and why we'd got to this point. The rest of the book was a slow build of world and information, written beautifully (so many lines jumped off the page at me, it's impossible to pick a favourite), that had me gripped from start to finish.

When Richard Papen arrives at Hampden, an elite New England college, he's immediately drawn to five friends - all students in an exclusive class to which he's desperate for entry - all eccentric, wealthy (if shabbily so) and surrounded by an air of glamour and mystery. Obfuscating (or plain lying) about his background and finances, Richard is soon drawn into the group and, eventually, their plot.

Playing with lots of ideas about the truth versus our perception of it, Richard would see the social veneers rather than what lies beneath and we go along with him for the ride, trying to glean the truth of his situation through the snatches of overheard conversations whispered outside doors, inside jokes and noises in the night, as Richard trudges through a world often shrouded in fog. When the truth, or a version that's been given to Richard, comes to light all of those solid friendships and ideas of who people are suddenly wobble and collapse and we're left with paranoia, bitterness, jealousy and fear.

Though this world is a million miles away from mine - not only did I not go to University but my 6th form college friends and I were more likely to be found haunting greasy spoon cafes, sailors pubs and '£1 a pint' nights at JFK's (a local rock club) in the company of others like us from poor to average working class backgrounds (none of Grandmother's mink and Mother's pills for us!) - it all felt very real to me and I found myself feeling as betrayed as Bunny at times by these friends of mine.

Beautifully written, fantastically plotted, peopled with extremely memorable characters (Bunny in particular really jumps off the page) and very, very interesting, I highly commend this to all.

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