Having read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and absolutely loving it, I eagerly awaited reading this older novel The Secret History first published in 1992.
It’s a complex 600+ page novel, not an easy read but this is not new if you’ve read Tartt’s books before, they are complex but rewarding. The Secret History in it’s simplest form is a novel which centres on an exclusive college situated in New England, USA. The protagonist of the story, Richard comes from the working class suburbs of a California town, eager to leave and go on and do something more interesting with his life, he writes off to apply for a paid scholarship at the exclusive Hampden College in Vermont. He is dumbstruck to find out later that he has been accepted and can start in the autumn!
Arriving at Hampden, Richard finds it difficult to mix with many of the seemingly well to do students from much richer backgrounds than he. A chance meeting with a mysterious professor of Greek classics, Julian Morrow brings him into a small and esteemed study class containing a handful of bright but very eccentric students.
As time goes on, we learn more about their lives, their strained friendships and underlying hatred for one member of the group in particular. The novel turns much darker as Richard is pulled into a murder attempt which will change his life and that of his fellow classics students forever….
Complicated, and highly character driven, this is difficult but rewarding reading; not an easy read, take your time so you can understand the characters and their nuances which drives them. At times dark, sometimes comical with a few moments of shock when you think wow I never expected that to happen…
I’m recommending it with four stars but be prepared to take your time with this novel, it’s a journey rather than a quick read.