I started 2020 in style – in February I read “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt, the book that became one of my favourite books of all time. As I also read “The Goldfinch” quite recently (in 2019), I identified interesting common aspects but also differences between the two books. These aspects are briefly described below.

! This discussion contains spoilers from the two books. If you haven’t read the books, please do not continue to read further. If you choose to read further, you’re at your own risk 🙂

donna tartt goldfinch the secret history readers high tea

The similarities 

  • Both books present the point of view of a (troubled) boy / young man (Richard in “The Secret History”, Theo in “The Goldfinch”)
  • There is a cultural atmosphere in both books – painting and vintage restoration in “The Goldfinch”, learning Greek & college life in “The Secret History”
  • There is a mysterious aura in both environments, and murder-like happenings – dark events and creepy people
  • Sex, drugs (and rock’n’roll?) – both stories present teenagers who consume alcohol and drugs
  • There are certain periods of time when characters spend a lot of time inside (time losses its meaning, characters are trapped – physically or mentally – and go through agony)

The differences

  • While both stories are very engaging, from my point of view “The Secret History” is more immersive than “The Goldfinch”
  • “The Goldfinch” presents a longer period of time compared to “The Secret History” (more than 10 years compared to 2 years)
  • “The Secret History” focuses a lot on group-related psychology and interactions, while “The Goldfinch” is more about individual psychology and reactions to events
  • “The Goldfinch” focuses more on character development, while “The Secret History” is more action-driven
  • The ending – “The Secret History” delivered higher adrenaline levels than “The Goldfinch”

Soon I will also read the third book written by Donna Tartt – “The Little Friend”. As you can imagine, I have high expectations and I am very much looking forward to read it!

donna tartt goldfinch the secret history the little friend readers high tea


Have you read any of the three books by Donna Tartt? If you read all of them, which one is your favourite ?

‘Till next time … happy reading!


13 thoughts on “Let’s talk about “The Secret History” and “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

  1. Okay I am saving this post to read latter! I started The Goldfinch and never finished it and I heard wonderful things about The Secret History. I think I will go reserve The Secret History right now on audio or e-book and then come back. Seems like I have more time to read these days 🙂


      1. Definitely read this post later, not now! 🙂 I enjoyed more reading “The Secret History” than “The Goldfinch”. I hope you will like it, too – looking forward to hearing your opinion after you listen to it!

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    1. Same here! I’m curious how I will feel after reading “The Little Friend”, I heard it can be as addictive as “The Secret History”. Will be back with impressions after I read it!

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      1. I don’t know. I think it was more like what I didn’t like about The Secret History. I read it so long ago that I don’t remember it very well. I just didn’t like it much at the time. I liked The Little Friend better and The Goldfinch best.


  2. OOh wow, you read both of them! You’re quite probably the only one I know who’s done this 🙂
    I’m currently reading The Goldfinch and I enjoy it. I definitely can see the characteristics you have mentioned above although I am short of reaching page 200. What’s interesting is that The secret history is action driven! I somehow did not expect that. You just made me decide on reading it after The Goldfinch!


    1. I remember I read “The Goldfinch” during a holiday, it brings back lovely memories 🙂 I hope you will enjoy the whole book, it also has its action-oriented sections. Tartt is an amazing writer, I hope she will write more books!

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  3. I loved both of these books too….same they became my fav books of all time…she is a genius! other than the Litttle Friend though, but still have faith in her to do more amazing books

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