Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Odd book. I tried to read it several times because the themes I was told were in it appealed to me, but kept getting bogged down near the beginning. I finally managed to get into it by skimming ahead to just past the point where I had difficulty, and read the rest compulsively.

I've never read a book with such a collection of completely self-absorbed, amoral characters. Charles reactioning to the first murder: "It wasn't like it was Voltaire we killed, but still, I feel bad." Henry, trying to push the blame on Coke, or Richard, or anyone, really. Bunny, the only one disturbed by the first murder, but casually stealing food, defacing books, his skill for finding others' weak points and pressing them - and his entire family so concerned with their image. The entire student body, even, with their affectation of grief.

The structure of the book seemed off. I expected the Dionysian murder to come at the climax. Instead it took place unnoticed by Richard near the beginning, followed by the casual killing of Bunny. And then the breakdown - I think it was the questioning by the police, and the apparent betrayals by Henry, that precipitated them. The breaking of the group, not remorse...

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