The Secret History by Donna Tartt | Book Review

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Storytelling in the grand manner, The Secret History is a debut remarkable for its hypnotic erudition and acute psychological suspense, and for the richness of its emotions, ideas, and language. These are the confessions, years afterward, of a young man who found at a small Vermont college the life of privilege and intellect he’d long coveted – and rarely has the glorious experience of youth infatuated with knowledge and with itself been so achingly realized. Then, amazed, Richard Papen is drawn into the ultimate inner circle: five students, worldly and self-assured, selected by a charismatic classics professor to participate in the search for truth and beauty. Together they study the mysteries of ancient Greek culture and spend long weekends at an old country house, reading, boating, basking in an Indian summer that stretches late into autumn. Mesmerized by his new comrades, Richard is unaware of the crime which they have committed in his dreamy, unwitting presence. But once taken into their confidence, he and the others slowly and inevitably begin to believe in the necessity of murdering the one classmate and friend who might betray both their secret and their future. Hugely ambitious and compulsively readable, this is a chronicle of deception and complicity, of Dionysian abandon, of innocence corrupted by self-love and moral arrogance; and, finally, it is a story of guilt and responsibility. An astonishing achievement by any standard, The Secret History immediately establishes Donna Tartt as a supremely gifted novelist.

Date Published: September 29, 1996

Date Read: July 06, 2019

Publisher: Ballantine Books

No. of Pages: 524

Setting: Vermont, USA

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary, Dark Academia

Get Your Copy Here: Amazon | Book Depository

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Intriguing and lyrical.

The Secret History is the first book I have read by Donna Tartt and for so long I have been intrigued by it, it was so popular it’s already considered a crime if you haven’t read it (ahhh so much puns haha).  The Secret History started off as a solid book for me but ended up as a letdown. Let’s just say I am not a big fan, and I am a minority here, but hear me out. I completely understand why this has been a favorite by many, it was beguiling, lyrical, intriguing and truly engaging. It is the kind of book that once you’ve started reading, you just can’t simply put it down. It demands your attention, and you’ll give it. Much like how I spent hours reading it, it was enigmatic and will just pull you in. You thought you’ve read quite a lot of pages only to find out that in reality you only have read 5 pages or so. It was dense and verbose, so much so that I found it unnecessarily long. The beautiful writing style suffered because of how lengthy the book was. There were too many parts that the book can definitely do away with, it could have been condensed into 300+ page book without losing its essence. Maybe I would have liked it more had it been shorter, there I said it.

Reading The Secret History gave me the feeling that I missed out on important details, but no, I have read the book from the very first page down to the last line and I am positive I didn’t miss out on anything. I even read the part where the book was telling what happened to each characters, much like at the end of a movie. I don’t know if it is for closure’s sake, or what the story required, or I honestly don’t know what was it all for. A huge chunk of it could have been removed and it wouldn’t make any difference to the story.

What I commend about this book though, is the atmosphere set by Donna Tartt. It was equal parts chilling and hypnotizing. She has this way with words that completely enamor her reader, drawing them in like the proverbial moth to a flame. Donna Tartt will capture your interest and hold it for however long she likes. I am a slow reader, I only get to read at night and in between work, but whenever I get the chance to open this book I am filled with this excitement to finish it, I was anticipating how it will end, I have played so many scenarios in my head on how the ending will play out and maybe that’s why I didn’t love it. My mind is already set for something colossal to happen, something gasp-inducing or some mind-fucking extravaganza, and nothing of the sort happened. It was a little flat for me. Such brilliant writing style warranted a twist that would leave its reader in daze, sadly that wasn’t what happened here, at least for me.

Let’s talk about the characters. We have Richard Papen, our narrator. Richard’s point of view completely added some sense of mystery in the story. Reading it felt like I am his character and I am a part of the story. We have Henry, who embodies the word enigmatic. He is the character I expected so much from. The mastermind among them. His character was very distinct, someone you either hate or love. Towards the end I was anticipating some trickery on his part, some kind of grand manipulation and all that, but this didn’t quite reflect on how the book ended. We have the twins Charles and Camilla, characters that are indispensable in the story. Both of them played an enormous part leading to the climax. I can’t say so much without spoiling anything. Then finally we have Bunny, the root cause of the whole book. His character was presented, at least for me, in a way to justify his murder. To make it look like they have all the reasons to commit such a crime. This isn’t a spoiler since his murder is already mentioned the first paragraph of the book. These characters acted way too mature for their ages, they drank a lot, use drugs quite a lot as well, and they have these cunning minds that you would be surprised how callous they do things. Dark academia said to be unofficial name of the genre deals with novels set in campuses with dark underlying theme may it be mystery or murder. Dark Academia is something new to me, I have read quite few books set in campuses but not so much on the darker concept. This genre surely appealed to me, I would want to read more of it. 

Dark Academia novels contain elements of both satire and tragedy, and they tend to focus on the humanities and liberal arts, these tend to play a role as the passions of the main characters, which ends up driving them too far. The genre has a tendency to over-romantizice a liberal arts education, xxx.

Excerpt from LitCrit: Dark Academia by blackhholesbooks

The reverse murder mystery isn’t what I often read in mystery thrillers. We are spared from guessing who killed who and the motive behind all of it. The reverse murder mystery didn’t really work favorably, because of its nature, the readers look forward to how the murder will come about, the before, during and after up to the climax of it all. Readers were led to believe that there would be something colossal that would transpire, at least it felt like that for me and when it ended the way it did I was more annoyed than satisfied.

It would be quite a while for me to pick up another Donna Tartt book, I heard Goldfinch is better than The Secret History but I will be saving that up in the far future. It was a lengthy book and I do feel a little proud that I finished it in a short span of time, sadly I wasn’t turned into a huge fan.

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“There is nothing wrong with the love of Beauty. But Beauty – unless she is wed to something more meaningful – is always superficial.”

― Donna Tartt, The Secret History

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The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman | ARC Review

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The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

Date of Publication: July 09, 2019

Date Read: June 27, 2019

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Number of Pages: 352 pages

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Fiction

Setting: Los Angeles, California

Get your copy here: Amazon

Source: Berkley Publishing sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Cute, nerdy, fluffy and feel good book! Every reader would find Nina Hill their spirit animal! Loved this one to bits!

I can’t wait for everyone to read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill! It was the ray of sunshine on a gloomy day, or that warm blanket on a cold night, or the cooler side of the pillow, or just your favorite comfort food at the end of a depressing day. It was just too cute, unabashedly nerdy and relatable to fault! Aren’t we all a little Nina Hill one way or another?

We follow the life of Nina Hill and how it suddenly turned upside down overnight. How her little world was not so little after all upon finding out about her new and utterly big family. Have I told you how much I love everything about this book?  From Nina being bookish, her working in a bookstore, trivia teams, a hint of family drama and a cute romance to tie everything, I mean what is not to love? I love that this book is light and feel good, definitely the book you’ll need to cheer you up! Those books are hard to come by these days, so whenever you chance upon one, you’ll treasure it like no other, much like how I treasure The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. And would you look at that awesome cover? Nothing I quite gravitates towards more than a yellow and sky blue cover. I reckon now that books with yellow covers are definitely good reads, fight me on this one (oh wait I just remembered one particular yellow book with such a very boring story, but that is for some other time). Haha

I know I always say this, but ever since I have read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine I tend to look for it in some books I read. And it so happened that The Bookish Life of Nina Hill had a minor resemblance to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. And what a delight it was for me! Let’s just say The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is the subtler, funnier, lighter version of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and it was just amazing. The one about their mothers stopped me in my tracks really, I really thought they have the same fate. That’s why I really loved The Bookish Life of Nina Hill it had everything I wanted in a good read. To those who haven’t read both books you are in for a huge treat!

Seriously, a book about a bookworm? That is a no brainer for me! I would read that in a heartbeat. I’m so glad this book existed, it was all my nerdy dream! I could relate to Nina Hill more than I could admit myself. Nina Hill with a schedule she follows quite religiously, Nina Hill who’d rather read than go out on a Friday night. Nina Hill who enjoys the company of few select people. Nina Hill who has three bookshelves filled with books she loved. Sounds very much like me. I love how it accurately describes a bookworm. I love the other characters as well, I love how each of them resembles Nina, from her father down to her niece. It’s like Nina is an amalgamation of all of her relatives – each having a unique connection with her. Making Nina feel a certain sense of belongingness, though she didn’t want it a first. And of course let’s not forget about Tom here, Tom and Nina’s romance was played out really well, it wasn’t the main focus of the book but it definitely made the whole story even better. I love how cute it was!

This book had the perfect humor, more often than not I catch myself laughing way more than necessary. It is the perfect rom com! It will give you that perfect rom-com vibes – the feel good type. One you’ll still think about for days on end. One you fall back into over and over. This is that book for me. And while true, this book is funny, humorous and light it also presented serious matters, one that I completely appreciated. It has depth and maturity. The writing style was brilliant, engaging and full of wits and humor. Charming and captivating, it was so likable without even trying so hard! Now this is the first book I have read by Abbi Waxman, and it sure isn’t the last one. I now have a new go-to author whenever I need a pick-me upper! It left me with a big smile on my face!

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“If you’re not scared, you’re not brave.” 
― Abbi Waxman, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

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{Thank you @berkleypub for a free copy of this books} #partner ••• THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by ABBI WAXMAN . SYNOPSIS: . The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book. When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is? Nina considers her options. 1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.) 2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee). 3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.) It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page. . ••• Ahhhhhhh a book I’m sure every reader would like! Reading the synopsis I got the Eleanor Oliphant vibe. And that makes me super excited! I’m sure I’m gonna be reading this sooner rather than later! ••• #TheBookishLifeofNinaHill #AbbiWaxman #berkleypub #berkleybookstagram

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