Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Donna Tartt's The Secret History is a book about a murder, but more in the vein of Crime and Punishment than Presumed Innocent. Richard, our narrator, joins a group of five young men and one woman in the study of classic Greek at a small private college in Vermont. He goes to great lengths to conceal the fact that he's there on scholarship, as this fact might alienate him from his blue-blood classmates. We learn on the first page, though, that the group will murder Bunny (short for Edmund), one of their own. The way that this plays out is sort of a horror story, as Bunny, virtually blackmailing the others in the group, seems unaware that he's digging his own grave and leaving his friends with no other solution. The aftermath of the murder is even darker, as Bunny's friends have to feign grief while staying at Bunny's parents' home during the weekend of the funeral. The fear of discovery and the degeneration of trust within the group are, of course, much more difficult to bear than the problem that the murder was intended to solve. Remorse seems to be generally lacking. I did not love this book, partly because it's overly long, but also because it's impossible to imagine how these students, drunk most of the time, ever became Greek scholars. However, there are some interesting forces at work. Richard is a hanger-on, blinded by misplaced admiration for the other members of the group and mesmerized by their charismatic professor. The price he pays for trying to fit in is very high indeed.

1 comment:

Terry K said...

Ok, read this one too. :)