There is a genre of books that I consider to be English major candy. The Secret History by Donna Tartt falls within that category. And, man. Is it ever delicious!
This novel has all the elements of great trashy reads — an upper crust, snooty university, some weirdo outsider kids, a secret society and MURDER MOST FOUL! Lower middle class Californian Richard moves to Hampden College, a very preppy college in rural Vermont, and soon finds himself wrapped up in the lives of an odd group of Classics students, who will soon murder one of their own. (Gah. It’s not a spoiler if the author tells you who’s going to be murdered in the first paragraph of the book!)
To be honest, I found the first 100 pages or so heavy going, but by the end I was completely into it. Just as Richard has to take his time to break into this very peculiar society, the reader has to let herself fully succomb to Tartt’s world and characters.
Tartt highbrows the novel up by adding in some literary and philosophy references, so you feel like a pretty smart mofo as you read it. Plus, her sentences can be stunningly beautiful.
It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely?
So yes, this is the perfect summer read for those who want to lose themselves, but don’t want to give up some brain cells. Highly, highly recommended.