Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Publication Date: 1992
Publishing House: Vintage Contemporaries
I’ve read this book before but it has been a while. It hadn’t been on my list of things to reread until recently when I went down a rabbit hole about the dark academia aesthetic. I do have a copy of this book but the reread was as an audiobook from the local library. If you want to know more about dark academia, here are a couple of videos: What Dark Academia Says About Elite Education and dark academia: everything you need to know.
The general definition of dark academia is “the name given to an aesthetic and subculture based on the architecture and clothing styles of some of the world’s most elite colleges, specifically Oxbridge and the Ivy League schools.” Here is source link. I do want to note that this book is 30 years old but is kind of THE book when it comes to aesthetic and the overall trend (with a name) is relatively new, within the last 3 or so years.
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last—inexorably—into evil.
I don’t know why this book came across so much darker the second time around – maybe because I was expecting it and knew what to look for. This book is written as if a memoir, as a reflection on a single point in time and the events that spiraled around it. The debris left in the wake of dark decisions and how some events take on a life of their own.
This book can be separated into two sections: the before and the after or fall term and spring term. For all its issues the fall term is painted as pastoral, beautiful, days blending together is a wash of watercolor and laughter. The spring is a time of secrets and frustration, a spiral where the colors are the red of blood and the bright pills they take to try and forget, washed with alcohol.
Tartt takes an interesting start to this book, she starts with the big reveal but the build up of why it happened and the fall out are almost more interesting. There is also a concern with the narrator as well. He is often under the influence of various substances and so the reader has to wonder how reliable he is. Although, he does admit that there are certain things that, in his memory, he looks at with rose tinted glasses. That admittance makes him slightly more reliable, at least in my mind, because he is aware of how time and perception warp memories.
I suggest this book for fans of Donna Tartt, for fans of Greek mythology, and for fans of dark academia. If you have read this book, I would love to know your thoughts on it. If you haven’t you might pick it up. Happy reading.
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