24 February 2012

The Secret History

Another big book. 600-something pages. I did read it quite quickly though. It was easy to read, cleanly written. So why is it that I finished it days ago and I'm only now sitting down to write about it? 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. First published in 1992. Wow, I didn't know that until just now. I actually thought it was older than that. 

It was pegged as "the original American campus novel". Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this isn't true, but I'm not sure I would have called it that as a selling point. It was set - partially - at a university, and the characters did, indeed, attend classes. But at times it did read more as a crime novel that was based in a college.

That said, I did enjoy the book. The main character is Richard, who changes colleges after commencing his studies in medicine and finding a, shall we say, lack of affinity for the profession. He stumbles across a group of students isolated from the larger student body, by their study of Greek, and their eccentric tutor. He makes friends with these students somewhat out of necessity, as the Greek tutor requires them to study all of their subjects with him and him alone. As Richard has come along after the original 5 had already established themselves, for the rest of the book he always seems just on the peripheries of the group. He narrates the book, sometimes more as an observer than an active part.

The book is an interesting study in behaviour, and how a major event can cause the group to come to rely and depend on each other, and the stress that can cause on those relationships. Fascinating stuff

As much as I didn't necessarily understand the choices these kids made, there was something about them I could relate to, sympathise with. 

I must admit, I like reading classics, novels that have stood the test of time. It feels like I'm in for something good before I've even started, just because it has managed to survive for so long. (Not that I've enjoyed EVERY classic novel I've ever read, but that's a topic for another post...)

Has anyone read this one? What's your opinion?

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