The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Fawcett Columbine, 3rd printing, 1996
Genre: thriller, mystery, literary fiction
Synopsis & Review: The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. So Donna Tartt’s The Secret History opens, announcing Bunny’s death and that the story we are bout to read will explain how and why it happened, as well as what happened after. Our narrator is Richard Papen, a lower middle class Californian who transplants himself to a tiny liberal arts college in Hampden, Vermont, in search of beauty. Enchanted by a small group of Classics students, he joins their ranks, but not without some difficulty. Charming twins Charles and Camilla, the wealthy libertine Francis, the genius Henry, and the amusing Bunny make up the circle of disciples worshiping at the feet of Julian Morrow, who acts as Aristotle to the group. Charmed and thrilled to be part of the inner circle, Richard fabricates a glamorous wealthy background for himself and throws himself into their lives with abandon. Gradually, Richard learns what’s been going on in the background as he’s been getting acquainted with the group: while replicating a bacchanal, Henry, Francis, and the twins inadvertently committed a murder. Bunny, also left out on that occasion and resentful, knows too, but poses a threat to the group due to his erratic behavior. Drawn into the cover up, Richard and the others scheme to murder Bunny to protect themselves. What seems so simply achieved, however, grows more entangled and ugly as they begin facing the reality of what they’ve done.
Disclosure: As The Secret History is one of my all-time favorite books, always in my top five, and I’ve read it about a dozen times now. Since I am quite passionate about it, I find it difficult to be objective about it. So I will try to make this short, with a minimum of gushing. click here for more about The Secret History