In college, we knew all the cliques. Cliques seem to be stereotypes that transcend time and location. In Donna Tartt's The Secret History, a group of gifted and privileged students studying Greek and the classics commit murder. The novel challenges the reader to watch these students, Henry, Francis, Richard, Bunny, Camilla and Charles deal with the emotional turmoil that comes with covering up a murder. It never goes smoothly, does it? The students think they're smarter than everybody else, tricking cops, the FBI, classmates, parents, teachers and the Vermont community. Unfortunately, Tartt actually does make them smarter than everybody and that is one of the downsides of the novel because Spoiler Alert they get away with, not one, but two murders. I don't know what Tartt's trying to say with this. Later in the book, we learn that a few of the kids crack and never really get their lives in order, but I wanted more trouble for the murderers. I wanted them to pay for their crimes, not just emotionally. I'm a square through and through, but I understand that life is not always black or white. I watch film noir and read Raymond Chandler. I know that people do some awful things because they feel there's no alternative. But Tartt doesn't want us to sympathize with these characters. And that's good because I didn't want to. These were cold blooded killers that were supposedly above reproach. The protagonist/narrator Richard, actually ends up going for his Ph.D in literature and is the least scarred of all the killers. I like shady protagonists...people on the skirts of society, living in the shadows of right and wrong. Richard isn't that guy. He's more of guiltless Ripley-esque character, without Ripley's charm.
It may not seem it, but I enjoyed the novel. It was an easy and entertaining read. I just never got what Tartt was trying to say, if anything. I didn't underline or mark any passages (and that's sad,) I simply read it and was done with it. I think Tartt's friend and former classmate, Brett Easton Ellis can still claim to rule the world of collegiate narcissism and moral corruption.