Secret History

The Secret History is a book that I picked up last Saturday at the Meriden Library. This was the last book in a ‘reading list’ provided to me by a librarian friend. And I’m glad that I ended with this one. To be honest, my excitement for reading waned slightly upon completing the last book: The lake of dead languages. Just enough so that I hesitated when I picked up this one… would it be any good?

I’m very glad I grabbed it. In my recent reading surge I’ve found that outside of the basic ‘good writing’/’bad writing’ separation there seem to be books with good plots, books with good characters, and books with both. The books with good characters, I think, are far better than books with good plots. Though you are free to disagree with me on that one.

‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt is one that, I think, has excellent characters and a pretty good plot. What makes the characters unique is that they are outcasts with deep flaws that are really tough to get your head around.

Our main character is Richard. He comes to a school and joins a group of students studying Greek: Henry, Charles, Bunny, and Camilla. The students are exceptionally bright, but fall into trouble when they find themselves in the midst of a murder.

Now, typically I think murder mysteries get a bad wrap. I think they can be seen as cheap entertainment. Despite the fact that this book deals with a murder… it’s hardly a mystery. I read it as more of a journey of a group of students and the interactions between them. The characters are just so wonderful.

I highly recommend this book. If you happen to read it, throw your thoughts in the comments.

One thought on “Secret History

  • 9/24/2007 at 12:33 pm

    Haven’t read it, but I do agree that books with good characters are better than books with good plots. If I don’t care about the characters, I can’t really get into the plot, no matter how well constructed. I’ve heard that there are only four basic plots, so I guess characters make all the difference.


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