Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
The Secret History is the story of Richard Papen, a student who finds himself charmed by the small group of professor Julian Morrow studying classics at University. Slowly, Richard is consumed by their intensity and slips into their obsessions and betrayal.
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, and I’ve read so many mixed reviews I was terribly curious. I read If We Were Villains, which was compared a lot to this, so and which I enjoyed, but thought I’d enjoy it more if it had been an adult novel instead. After reading The Secret History, I definitely see the similarities and I’m quite glad I picked it up!
First of all, I listened to this book, which I don’t actually recommend. The writing is so pretentious (on purpose), that it sounds odd and forced when read out loud. If you want to read it, I will highly recommend picking up a physical copy.
The characters are so, so unlikable. I could hardly tolerate any of them, which on the beginning of the book was hard and made me wonder at the wisdom of listening to 22h of a narration I didn’t like about characters I didn’t like, but it got better and better. Every single character is pretentious, vain, narcissistic and varying levels of obnoxious. I started to care about them (although never like them) as the book went on, and got really hooked on the story after maybe 20% of it.
This novel sucks you in much like Richard got sucked in – except we can thankfully keep a healthy distance, also because most readers won’t be pretentious, narcissistic cult members (I assume). So it’s hard to relate to the actions of the characters, but it’s certainly fascinating. The plot is slow-moving, which at times exasperated me. I did not care enough to know all the little things Richard was thinking or doing.
So I had a mixed bag with this book – engrossing and with unlikable but fascinating characters, but also too slow and hard to relate to any of them. I was at times absolutely absorbed by the book and at others bored or impatient. If you like books about cults and also classics, about relationships becoming obsessive and toxic, I think you’ll like this!