6 Jan

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am cheating a bit on my 2016 reading challenge this week, as two of these books were started and mostly finished in 2015 and then set aside for a little while. Oh well.

It’s impossible to give this book, with this writing, anything less than five stars. The first sentence is memorizing and diagramming worthy…
“The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we began to realize the gravity of our situation.”
The sentence falls, as if rolling down a steep hill.

The setting is haunting and dreamlike–like walking through a pretty town while drunk. Characters are sometimes chillingly alien, sometimes endearingly familiar. Another massive, gorgeous and enviable achievement on behalf of Donna Tartt.

However, I did set this book down for 5 months for a reason, the same reason it took me quite a while to finish The Goldfinch. Yes, it’s long–but that’s not exactly it. Every line is beautiful, but sometimes I felt that not every line was purposeful, not driving towards a unity. Some of these lines were logistical, some tangential. As a whole, it gave it the taste of the true memories of a very intelligent man–giving all remembered details for their own sake rather than to make a cohesive point. It gave me an intermittent feeling of impatience.

I’ve thought about the feeling, and if you’ll permit me a metaphor, reading (or really, in my case, listening) to Donna Tartt novels is like being listening to an engaging conversation with a talkative person whom you’re desperately attracted to. You wouldn’t dare interrupt–she’s too beautiful and clever–but as the story winds to and fro with added remembrances and asides, the question– Wait, what about…? comes to your mind to distract you, and you wish you could turn the story back to center, but this new part is so beautiful too…so you keep listening and hoping, trying not to be distracted by your own questions.

In the end though, every possible question is answered and all emotional come to a head and resolve. So in the end, I’m looking forward to The Little Friend, a little ways down my to read stack. And in ten years, I’ll read whatever she has for us next.

View all my reviews


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