21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)Recently I have had trouble finishing books. However, Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' was absolutely no trouble at all. In fact for all its length I finished it within a week, reading late into the night and then getting so scared by Tartt's menacing and ultimately disturbing story that I had to turn on the TV.
The charcaterization is probably the strongest feature of an incredibly strong work of fiction. Each member of the ensemble cast is magically alive, in spite of, and in fact, because of their eccentricites and Richard's constant analysis of them. Even Francis, who we learn comparatively little about, is an entirely rounded character; through their constant smoking and drinking they become familiar. Even though we don't know what the next twist will be, we know what they will be doing when it unfolds; speaking ancient Greek, alluding to the Classics, smoking and drinking.
Tartt has been accused of uninnovative linguistics, I would refure that criticism. Her use of simple prose is the antithesis to the pretentsion that would have otherwise arisen from the constant allusions to the classics. Similarly, her prose gives the reader the sense that it is indeed Richard telling us this story, he is not merely a narrative vehicle, he is a character - as fully formed as the rest of them -who is recounting something that he can't stop thinking about; the only story he can now tell.
The book is funny too, I laughed out loud often whilst reading it, the humour is often dark but similarly it is often wonderfully famililar; a humourous observation of one the characters that is so accurate to a real-life counterpart.
I thouroughly enjoyed 'The Secret History' and, as other reviewers have said, I am still thinking about each character a week after finishing it, wishing I'd at least met them all. It is long, but surely, that makes it all the more satisfying when you finish it and all the characters become complete in your head. Tartt tells us of the plot's climax at the beginning, the mystery of the novel is in the completion of her characterization, which is flawless.