Crazy Things People Do In College: The Secret History by Donna Tartt Book Review

Hi everyone and welcome to another one of my book reviews! I borrowed The Secret History from my school library on November because I loved The Goldfinch so much and I really wanna read Donna Tartt’s other books. Well, needless to say, it was a terrible decision, because I actually had tests and instead of studying, I ended up reading this book all night long.

2015-11-11 10.42.13-1 copy

Picture taken from my Instagram.

The Secret History is an adult, mystery novel set in Vermont, and is written through the perspective of Richard Papen and how he entered a very rich university and his paths crossed a group of friends when he decided to take a study of Greek in the university. He becomes friends with this group of quirky characters and then things become bad as murder and mystery surrounds these six cast of characters.


Like most of you probably know, this isn’t your typical crime novel where you start with a mystery and try to solve who killed the victim. The book starts with the fact that we all know who killed who and the whole story is about why they did it and the aftermath of the incident.

The main story is that Richard enters an exclusive class of Greek taught by an eccentric teacher. And there are only five students in the class. One day in a cold winter day, four of the friends performed a Greek ritual and accidentally killed a man. They tried to hide it but one of the friends who didn’t join the ritual, Bunny, was furious and when he found out, he began to act as if he would tell someone about their secret and risk them of going to jail. And the story evolves around the gang trying to stop Bunny, bringing Richard along, and at the end they decided to kill Bunny to silence him. Okay, that was a terrible synopsis and I probably gave out too much, but it’s such an intriguing book and it’s definitely different from anything you’v ever read.



I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.


Like I mentioned in my review of The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s writing is amazing. I mean, I love her writing so much I feel like I want to live in it. When you read her books, you feel immersed in it and you can just the whole vibe of the story and to simplify it, her writing makes you feel things. And just like The Goldfinch, this book is quite huge, but it doesn’t feel heavy and it doesn’t weigh you down because you just fly through the book and you’d just get lost in the story.

The first part of the story is chilly and freezing and mostly tells about Richard and his life before meeting the Greek gang, and I’ve heard many people say that they didn’t the second part. But for me I loved the middle part towards the end. It was when I really started to know the characters and were able to tell them apart and when we start to see what’s going to happen and anticipate what will happen next.


quote2One likes to think there’s something in it, that old platitude amor vincit omnia. But if I’ve learned one thing in my short sad life, it is that that particular platitude is a lie. Love doesn’t conquer everything. And whoever thinks it does is a fool.


For me, the characters in the story were super duper unique. Although the main character reminded me a little of the main character in The Goldfinch, I could still really relate to him and tell him apart. I love the other characters, and how they all had a certain aura around them that is so surreal and beautiful to read about. The twins and their dynamics, and Bunny whom I love, and Francis is perfect, but the character I love most is probably Henry. And I know many people have said that the characters in this story are all awful and horrible, and I do agree about that, I think the people in here are just really good characters. They’re definitely not real because no one would be as magical as they are, but they also feel like real humans because of their weaknesses and traits. The gang reminded me a little of the friends in The Raven Boys, but with a more adult twist which includes more sex and drinking.

Speaking of that, this book does have a lot of themes that I’ve noticed Donna Tartt likes to put inside her stories. Recurring things like getting drunk slash high, lying to other people, keeping a secret that is eating you alive, sexual urges to people the same gender as you are, being an outsider. I think from the two books I’ve read by her, a lot of these are similar. But what I like more about The Secret History is how the setting stays the same and the story happens in a shorter period of time. Which is why I like this more than The Goldfinch.

Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: April 2004 (First published 1992)
Num of pages: 559
Date read: November 2015
Goodreads link

All in all, The Secret History could most probably turn out to be one of my favourite books I read this year. It’s filled with intrigue and set in an amazing setting. It has a cast of amazing characters that you love to hate. And it is written so beautifully that when the story ended, you are just left wanting more and more. A five star read for me. I’d reread it again today if I can. Unfortunately, I need to return the library book. I probably will buy the book in a few weeks. And I’d pay a lot of money to see this on screen, if a movie will ever be made.

5 stars

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  1. I’ve heard such great things about this book. I recently listened to a BBC’s Books Podcast that Donna Tartt was on and she discussed this book (it was an old podcast). It made me want to go read it even more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant review! The Secret History is one of my favourite books, and Henry is my character too. I know he does some messed up things, but I think he was so well characterised. I have The Goldfinch waiting on my shelf to be read, and I’m so excited to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

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