Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Secret History

Image sourced from here
What self-respecting book starts with the main character confessing a murder on the first page? I mean, that's not how books work. You may have a body in the first chapter or so, but you don't have a confession. That's crazy talk. How do you then draw the book out for 600pp?

This is where Donna Tartt turns into the amazing author I have heard about. She then works from what would usually be the climax of the book, and gradually builds the tension throughout the book. I felt like a tightly wound spring by the end. She piles on anxiety after anxiety with the characters and you don't really realise you have absorbed every single one until it releases. It's exceptionally clever writing.

That's one of my criticisms though. It knows it's clever. It oozes clever. It didn't bother me too much as I personally felt it backed most of it up (although crash courses in ancient Greek history kinda gets me going). But even I felt like it was self indulgent every now and then. I can see this would piss some people off.

Also. I found it incredibly unbelievable how incredibly "likeable" some of the characters were. I am sorry, but they weren't. They were dicks. And the fact you have to tell me over and over again how much people actually liked so and so, backs up my point more than yours. Don't tell me for a page how ridiculously sexist, racist, homophobic, leeching and parasitic someone is and then say "but everyone liked him" repeatedly. No. I bet a lot of people didn't like him. And I bet a lot of them were wondering like me why everyone was so worried and invested in him. Bah. Just wasn't overly believeable. Small part of the story, but enough to irk.

These things aside, I really enjoyed the read. I like books I can't predict. I like reasonably clever books (even when they slightly think they are cleverer than they are). If you haven't read Donna Tartt before, I would recommend her. I am keen to read her other books.

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