It is difficult to find a 5/5 novel. Flaws are inevitable but it is what makes the book almost human. But the afternoon when I finished The Secret History, it became clear that this story is possibly the closest you can get to that 5/5. 

The Secret History is a complex and incredible novel, written by Donna Tartt, telling the supposedly simple story of college students in Vermont in search of a new way of living. Written in the retrospective view of Richard Papen, one of the students, the story is given anticipation and suspense through his hints at future events. He befriends the outcast Classics students of the college, and from there the plot starts to broaden and hook me in as I learn about their stories, lives and ways of thinking. 

Throughout the novel, there is an overlying theme of the ideal and how we have a “morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs”. This appealed to me a lot and I believe that the whole world does in some senses desire that charm in life. But how these characters achieve that desire is morbid. 

The beauty of the themes of history, language and poetry contrasts the horror of the plot. Sentences in French, Greek and Latin scattered throughout the novel transported me back in time and gave an alluring atmosphere. The characters’ love of Greek myths and legends were fascinating and enthralling. Tartt’s way with words and poetic flow and rhythm made the whole story feel like an epic telling the story of a Greek tragedy in the setting of the modern world. To continue the theme of misfortune, this book was structured like a traditional Shakespearean tragedy: a gradual fall from order to chaos. This writing style was thoroughly appealing and compelling as the fall was successfully done and drew me in at every moment of the downfall. 

Ultimately, the novel was unlike anything I have ever read, evoking emotions and thought processes unlike I have ever felt. The atmosphere is at once transfixing and heart-wrenching. It draws on the dark desires of the heart, mind and soul in inexpressible ways. Therefore, I do rate this book a 5/5 stars and highly recommend that everyone read it at least once in their lifetime. 

“It was truly something else entirely” - Nithya Tikoo, reader of The Secret History