Book Of The Week #6

Words: Ali Iannattone

Schemes, betrayal and dark academia; this week’s book of the week is ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt. 

Tartt (‘The Goldfinch’ ‘The Little Friend’) is a Pulitzer Award winning author, born in Mississippi and published for the first time at age 13, when one of her sonnets was included in The Mississippi Review.  ‘The Secret History’ was Tartt’s first novel and it received much praise from public and critics alike; some even say it was the first to popularise the ‘Dark Academia’ sub-genre in literature.  

Opening in Autumn 1983, the novel introduces us to one of our six main characters – and narrator – Richard Papen; a young man who, unsatisfied with his life in California, decides to attend college at Hampden College in Vermont. It’s there that he meets the five puzzling and mysterious students that make up the college’s prestigious Greek class. Upon deciding to join their class and getting close to the clique, the book’s events start unfolding quickly and catastrophically. 

From the very first chapter, Richard reflects on the events that take place in the book; but more specifically the ones that lead to his friend, Bunny Corcoran’s death, and how he was responsible for it. 

The book takes the form of an inverted detective story, where the reader retraces the murderous clique’s steps with them in an attempt to understand what exactly happened that year. 

Donna Tartt’s writing will keep you on your toes and make you question your sanity at every turn. It is its impeccable balance of pacing and detail which keeps the reader hooked from the very first page until the very last. 

Find your copy of ‘The Secret History’ here: World of Books (used), Waterstones.