After enjoying so much “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, I could not resist reading one more books written by her. Though I’m not sure how I heard about “The Secret History” – was it from a friend, or maybe from a fellow blogger? – I had a feeling that I have to read this book. And it was a perfect instinct, as it became one of my favourite books of all times!

the secret history donna tartt readers high tea
The joy of taking pictures of a favourite book – priceless!

The Secret History in a nutshell

“The Secret History” tells the story of a small group of Classics students at Hampden College, an elitist school in Vermont, USA. Richard, the most recent member of the group, is the narrator of the whole story. Years after graduating, he recounts the events that led to the murder of Bunny, another member of the group (this information is disclosed in the first 2 pages, no spoilers). It is a dark mind-blowing story of what happened before and after the murder, with a strong focus on the circumstances and the characters.

Overall impression

A dark and modern “Crime and Punishment” type of story, “The Secret History” will keep you awake at night and will make your heart rush as if you’re part of the Classics group yourself! Apart from the murder mystery, the book touches upon many other topics such as alcohol and drugs, troubled families, suicide, but also status, romantic relationships, beauty, and Ancient Greece.

the secret history donna tartt readers high tea review
Images from There is no movie after the book (yet); these portraits depict interestingly the main characters of the story


The book has a complex psychological component. On one hand there is focus on the individual characters, how each of them reacts to the events. On the other hand, there is a strong element of group psychology. The group of students reminded me of the group of young people from “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro – mostly because of their isolation and group cohesion.


After reading the book I found out it is a great example of an inverted detective story, also known as a “howcatchem”. This type of story describes the crime at the beginning (sometimes even the murderer), and the narration focuses on solving the mystery of why and how the murder happened. In contrast, the “whodunit” type of murder mystery focuses on discovering the criminal (an example I read recently is “The Book of Mirrors” by E.O. Chirovici).


I enjoyed so much reading “The Secret History” that I recommend it to everybody! Maybe I recommend to NOT read it if you’re not an adrenaline junkie and / or if you are sensitive to murder-related explicit stories. Otherwise … just go for it!

If you would like to buy books or other (non)bookish things, please consider using one of these links: Amazon | Waterstones | Carturesti. Thank you!

‘Till next time … happy reading!


Images from |

4 thoughts on “The Secret History by Donna Tartt (book review) – a dark adrenaline-rushing story of murder

      1. I will be very interested in the comparison between The Secret History and the Goldfinch – the narrators are definitely similar!


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