Bleak Books with Olivia: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Have you ever read a book all the way through just to close it for the last time and say “wow, that was bleak”? Well, I’m here to make the case for those dark, dreary, haunting, and disturbing reads that keep you up at night long after you put them down. Welcome to Bleak Books with Olivia, your resident creepy book lover at the Aurora Public Library District.

So, you’ve just finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (or maybe you’ve seen the movie instead, I don’t judge!) and you’re on the hunt for another gripping thrill ride full of mystery, intrigue, and tons of dark academia themes. Why not reach for another Tartt novel? This sprawling narrative about a young man’s desire to just be something other than ordinary takes our main character, Richard, to dizzying highs and deep, deep valleys of low points as he tags along with quite possibly the most interesting people on campus: the tight-knit group of Classics students at Hampden College and their enigmatic professor, Julian Morrow.

The beginning of The Secret History shoves us face-first into the drama of it all: one of the Classics students has been murdered, and it was a group effort between the rest of the Classics Clan, as I like to call them. Now, you may be saying “Whoa! Spoiler Alert!” but this is all made clear in the exposition of the novel, just a few pages in, and even can be read on the jacket. The big mystery of the novel is why a group of friends this close would murder one of their own in cold blood? What does he know? Donna Tartt promises we are bound to find out.

The reveal is beyond jarring. While the beginning of the novel is slow and steady, introducing each member of the Classics Clan to Richard in painstaking detail, the moment we know why our dear friend Bunny is going to be murdered, we’re sent into a tailspin. We are taken alongside Richard as he makes the journey from average college student to an accomplice to murder, and Donna Tartt makes this transition so smoothly that you don’t even think to balk at this change in demeanor. The seduction to the mysterious, intriguing, and dangerous lives of Richard’s friends makes him blind to their true natures. Only after Bunny is gone do we see the group unravel. The act tears them apart in very unique ways, as the act of murder would to any sane person. And only then does Richard realize he has never truly known these people and never will.

What is so remarkable about this book to me is how I realized slowly that I am Richard. I too am just along for the ride, so in love with these interesting students that I can’t see they have manipulated me as well. I hate to admit it, but as the book came to a close, I still found each character so intriguing that I had forgiven them for their crimes and still wanted to sit down for a cup of coffee with them in the Hampden library. How twisted is that? Now, that is good writing.

Thank you for joining me on this dissection of one of my favorite Bleak Books. I hope to see you again sometime soon! Please take a look in the Adult Fiction section on the second floor of the Aurora Public Library for my favorite Bleak Books (including this one!) If you meet me in the library and have any Bleak Books suggestions, please let me know! I’m always looking for a new book to disrupt my life for a couple of weeks.

 

Stuck Between the Pages

Calling all young adults! Stuck Between the Pages will return in February, and we need you!

Do you like to read? Do you like to discuss what you read with others who like to read? Are you ready to make new friends from all over? Do you like snacks? (Because we always have snacks.) We’re always looking for new members to join our group!

If you’re in high school or college and would like to join Stuck Between the Pages, just stop by the Aurora Public Library to sign up. Then you can pick up your copy of the book for the following month’s meeting at the upper level desk! February’s book will be Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Stop by anytime after the first of the year to sign up and get your copy. Click here for a brief excerpt from Goodreads.

Meetings always take place the second Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the teen area upstairs at the Aurora Public Library. Even if you haven’t read the book but are interested in joining, come to one of the meetings to see what it’s like. Meetings usually last about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the discussion. (Did I mention we have snacks? Because we always have snacks.) The first meeting of 2019 will take place on Tuesday, February 12 at 6 p.m.

Join us on Thursday, February 7 at 6 p.m. for a viewing of the movie Me Before You, starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. Even if you don’t have time to read the book, come to the movie and discussion to compare and contrast the movie and the book. (Once again, there will be snacks!)

If you still need convincing, be sure to talk to one of our staff members!