When we really look at it, there are only two ways for us to predict if we will like a book – the description and the hype. I normally only read half of the description, because I hate spoilers, and focus more on the hype. For this book – the hype was real. Besides the current obsession with Castle of Water, the book I have seen posted about the most on bookish social media is The Secret History. It seems like everyone has read it and everyone has LOVED it.
When I received credit from Barnes and Noble, I immediately knew this would be one of the books I bought. A modern classic that will fit in well on the bookshelf. And while its definitely challenging to review a modern classic, I’m going to try.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
What I enjoyed about this book, was that it felt like a saga. It wasn’t skimming the surface or only telling the climax of the story, but it told the story from the beginning – when Richard, the protagonist, met his group of classmates, and everything was kicked in to motion. It followed in great detail, the life of Richard over the following year, through the climax of the story, and then through the aftermath.
If you compare this book to some of the other murder-mystery-thriller’s I’ve read this summer, (i.e. Into the Water or even In a Dark Dark Wood) you can recognize how [relatively] incomplete those types of books can be. You come in to the story after the event, and retroactively search for clues. The Secret History was a different experience, while following the same general plot. (BTW the fact that TSH is a murder mystery is revealed in the first sentence, so no spoilers here!) It was something different, and while I felt like pages 400-475 would never end, I will advise you to stick around to the end because the end will draw you right back in!
So, to loop back to the beginning of this post, while the hype was real, and I truly enjoyed the book, for me the description was not. Corruption, Betrayal, and Evil are meaningful and dark words, and I didn’t find this book to be as dark as those descriptors would suggest.