The Secret History

On Monday I finally finished reading The Secret History, after starting it the 6th. Not too bad time-wise, but I’ve read more quickly (this week). I started it before we left for our weekend trip, and finished the day after we got back.  All in all, it was a really interesting story, plot, style, characters, everything.

It’s always weird when an author begins the book by telling you something that happens near the end of the book. Then you have to sit and wonder what they’re talking about until you’ve gotten to the end. THEN you have to re-read the beginning and it finally makes so much sense. That was the case with The Secret History.  The book is written through the perspective of it’s main character, but I wish it was third-person so I could know what the others are thinking.  But I think that the first-person is very fitting for the story, because Richard will NEVER understand what the other students are thinking, so therefor the reader doesn’t either.

I don’t know whether or not I have a favorite narrator perspective. I know I don’t like books that switch…I’ve read some that do, and it confuses me. But some stories are just better being told by a narrator, by a main character, or with seemingly no narrator at all. Almost every story I’ve personally written is in the third-person, but someday maybe I will branch out from that.

So much foreshadowing…I always look for that in books, because it’s almost like a spoiler without the spoiler. Julian, the Greek professor, says to his students, “We don’t like to admit it, but the idea of losing control is one that fascinates controlled people such as ourselves more than almost anything…” At one point or another, each student loses control (many of them have already begun their spiral before the book even begins), and the climax of their loss of control isn’t even in the murder of their classmate. They lose control when they kill the farmer, each time they smoke, drink, or do their various drugs. They lose control when they cover up their lies.

Another bit of foreshadowing is when the six students are toasting and say, “Live forever” “And always, always, that same toast. Live forever.” Bunny definitely doesn’t live forever.  Henry doesn’t live forever. None of them do, but for those two, “forever” isn’t quite as long.

The writing style of this book is PHENOMENAL. There are references to dates such as the 60’s and 70’s, and there is semi-modern technology, but the time period of the story is unspecific, and unimportant.  The six students are so withdrawn from the rest of the university with Julian, they’re already in their own world and time.  Their style of dress is very victorian and scholarly, but the story has to take place around the 80s, I would think.  But like I said, the date isn’t important to what happens. I love books like that.  It isn’t “fantasy” or “other-worldly,” but it’s definitely timeless.

What intrigues me the very most about this book is the characters.  They’re secretive, incestuous, alcoholic murderers, yet they seem so calm when discussing it. Of course, the murder was Henry’s idea and he was the only one who pushed Bunny, but they others saw no problem with it until after, when the pressure got to be too much. Henry was fighting to be the leader, and getting rid of Bunny was the only way to keep their secrets safe. He had some power over his friends, but no one seemed to mind. They spoke of murder so flippantly…like they were discussing their Greek homework. I am so fascinated with the minds of killers, especially when they show no remorse or find anything really wrong with what they did.  And their Greek rituals they had learned and studied seemed to make it even more okay for them to commit their murder(s).

I like books that tell you what happens to each character after their story is over.  A little epilogue that sums up their remainder of their lives so the reader isn’t left wondering. I gave the book 4/5 stars on Goodreads, simply because there were a few places in the book I wish had not jumped around so much. It would go from one place to another, and never finish the first conversation or scene as well as I wanted it to. It didn’t really leave me hanging or with unanswered questions, but I wish there had been more closure, I guess. But I think it’s part of the style I liked so much.


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