The Staying Power of The Secret History

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, became an instant classic when it was first published in 1992. Though it is primarily set in the 1980s, the story has a dreamy, timeless quality. To read it at a still impressionable young-adult age feels like a rite of passage. On the surface, it is a captivating murder mystery about a clique of Classics students at an idyllic New England college. But to stop there would be to sell the book short. Examine the potent combination of factors that have elevated The Secret History to its iconic status. In my estimation these include the introspective, romantic narration reminiscent of that of Victorian novels; the bittersweet, melancholic tone; and Tartt’s subtle sense of humor. These elements work in concert to ensure that this well-constructed, well-paced mystery leaves a lasting emotional impression.

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