iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #36: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Cannonball 36How far can prose alone carry a novel? Your answer to that question will determine how much you’ll enjoy The Secret History. Donna Tartt’s debut novel about six Classics students at an elite New Hampshire university is told in lyrical, measured prose that makes its length much more tolerable than it would be with a lesser literary light. However, the preposterous nature of the story combined with the author’s moral equivocation and weak plotting make the novel difficult to like despite the beauty of the language.

Tartt’s novel suffers first and foremost from the unsustainable conflict between her high style and the novel’s setting, specifically in regards to time. The story takes place in the 1980s but Tartt’s language is strictly 19th century and her characters would seem more at home in the 1930s or so. Sure, they are trust-fund babies in every decade, but the mannerisms of these old-money twits are not of the kind that you’d find in any of our lifetimes.

Basically, this book is a big, long meh that I only finished because of flight delays.


2 thoughts on “iamnothamlet’s #CBR5 Review #36: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

  1. Thank you! Finally someone else who found this as deathly dull as I did. I hated every single character in this book, and was so disappointed, because all my friends who read it seemed to think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I can’t understand the massive popularity of this book, I really can’t.

  2. I read this after really enjoying Tartt’s other novel, The Little Friend (I think that’s what it’s called) – about the girl trying to find out who murdered her brother (?? maybe? It’s been a looong time since I’ve read either of these). Anyhoo, I totally agree, this book sucked. I finished it because I kept expecting better with each page turn and was only disappointed. Malin’s right, everyone in this book was wretched. Likeable characters aren’t a requirement, but they sure help when the plot is really not all that interesting.

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