I have read The Secret History by Donna Tartt seven times. And every single time the story grabbed me completely, even though the premise of the book is clear after the first paragraph.
Reading it is like restoring an old painting. Every time, a new layer is revealed; in the plot, the characters, the setting, the symbolism and the theme. It made me put Vermont on my bucket list.
The characters are not likeable and I can’t relate to them at all, but they are fascinating as hell. Just like they do the main character, Richard Papen, they suck you into their weird little circle and before you know it, you, too, have become a member of the cult.
They make you feel like you don’t know sh*t about anything, that you’re an uncultured wannabe. But like a true masochist, you keep going back for more, even though you know that you’ll never truly be one of them, no matter how hard you try.
When the cult bubble bursts at the end, there is relief in finding out that you’re better off being ‘normal’ and that you should be grateful that you don’t have to live with their burden. But the aftertaste, no matter how faint, remains bitter: You will never live up to their standard. But rather than accept it, you grab the book again to give it another try.
The Secret History is one of those rare books that teaches you about yourself and I can understand why people don’t like it. It is confronting, as the main character acts like a mirror. There’s a masochist wannabe in all of us, but some of us are just better at hiding, or denying, it.
Elizabeth Barlo’s debut novel ‘Ruth 66′ is now available in e-Book and paperback format: