It seems strange to offer a review of a book published in 1992. So many people will have read it by now it's a bit... irrelevant? However, the reason I will is because I hope it can serve as a tipping point for those on the "should I/shouldn't I read it" scales.
I first heard of The Secret History in a review of another book I was looking into - so long ago I can't remember what it was - and since then I have seen many, many books compared to it. Just for example, one of the books currently on my "to-read" pile bears the following Daily Mail accolade:
"'Scary, sexy, sultry and shimmering - a brilliant debut in the vein of Donna Tartt"
The constant references to The Secret History in regards to other books I had liked, and continue to seek, made me feel that this was the book to be aspired to in the gothic/a little morbid genre I so often frequent. It just took me years to finally get round to reading it.
I can say that it was worth the wait in some ways, but I found myself a little disappointed in others.
On the positive side, I found a dark, twisted but philosophical story of insular madness, solitude, murder and ego. The characters were well contructed and the writing was great. A few quotes at the beginning of the book had me swooning over the poeticness of language again - something I've not done for a while - and I was suitably engrossed to finish the book within a week.
On the other hand, I felt the story was contrived in it's simplicity and the situations became repetitive with little new detail. I got bored of the smoking and the drinking, and the extravagance of the lifestyle became tired and lacking (things are only extravagant indefinately if there is an extreme to contrast against it?). I also didn't quite understand the need for Julian, or how an academic institution would allow his practices to exist.
That said, I was happy to have read The Secret History. I can see how it set a precedent of subtle, lingering atmosphere. Of blink-and-you-miss-it insanity clues creeping into daily life. Of character study.
Those who haven't yet read The Secret History definately should. However, I feel the achievement is of the author's craft, not the story itself.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt - Review
Emma is a designer living in Bristol, UK. A self-confessed stationery addict, book lover and TV sci-fi geek, she enjoys sketching zombie-eyed women and finding her next source of inspiration in the pages on the bookshelf.