September 12th, 2004

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, revisited

It's very well plotted 500 page novel that wraps up its loose ends neatly. I found the events engrossing and suspenseful, and the characters fascinating, even though at times I felt I was seeing the characters "through a glass, darkly."

The writing style is lyric but also keeps the story moving along. These two qualities can pull in opposite directions, but are kept integrated here.

The characters are not admirable people, though they have some positive traits which make them charming much of the time. The narrator has a fairly weak, albeit interesting, personality. Some may find him sympathetic. I didn't, overall, but he was easy to understand, and it was easy to understand his hooking up with a group of students who have fallen prey to something dark, and who are now hiding a dangerous secret.

The events of the story are cautionary rather than inspiring. A brilliantly pointed allusion is made at one point to Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. If you like Dostoevsky, I recommend this book to you highly. If you are interested in understanding how evil can creep into lives by slow degrees, I recommend this book.

By the way, I was persuaded to read this book by Shannon Ringvelski's well-thought-out talk on Reading Contemporary Literature at the Objectivist Center summer seminar. Thank you, Shannon!

Rhyme of the Day:

The Secret History
is an odd sort of mystery.
You know who died
and who did it.
But you want to know why!