The Secret History
6 journalers for this copy...
(31/01) Review to follow
The rootless & dissatisfied Richard Papen comes to the up-market Hampden college in rural Vermont from ‘nowheresville’, California. He joins a small elite group studying classics with the brilliant but maverick professor, Julian Morrow. Early on we know there’s a death amongst the group, although the causes and protracted ramifications take another 600+ pages to unfold. There’s quite a lot of good stuff in here about the nature of friendship, love, sacrifice, aesthetics & death with references to Dante, Milton, Greek & Roman ideas, societies & myths. A product of typical 1970’s secondary modern education (natch) I probably missed a lot of the classical allusions ;-) But, a key turning point of the story is the group’s attempts to reach a ‘Dyonisian Frenzy’, to transcend an earth-bound, reasoning existence, to ‘Live forever’ by rediscovering the ancient rituals, to experience the true, the elemental ‘triumph of barbarism over reason’.
What a huge book this was, highly praised for its erudition & impact at the time. A‘Catcher in the Rye’ for the 90’s, maybe, although, I kept thinking about Robin Williams in ‘The Dead Poet’s Society.’ I wonder why this hasn’t made it to the big screen, maybe too similar a story, too elitist & unapproachable a setting?
Good, but not that good.
The bits I liked; (1) the New England weather & scenery; (2) Henry’s character, the real enigmatic lead of the story, even before page 635!; (3) most of the second half of the book after the murder; the police investigation, the angst, the downward spiral of the group under pressure from within and without...
The bits I didn’t like; (1) the ‘look how much research I’ve done’ classical & literary references, the bits of Greek language & pseudo-intellectualism; (2) the overlong first half of the book and whole swathes of extraneous detail everywhere; (3) Julian’s character, which starts out promising but sort of drifts off; (4) the ceaseless dissolution, just how much drink & drugs did these students indulge in, was it all necessary for the plot? Last but not least, (5) Charles’s character – just because he’s unlikeable!
And a couple of quotes:
(Richard, about himself and the nature of obsession & digression; I recognise this apparent contradiction in terms, although I tend to call the latter time-wasting ;-)
"It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive."
(the epilogue heading)
"Alas, poor gentleman
He look’d not like the ruins of his youth
But like the ruins of those ruins"
– John Ford (The Broken Heart)
Released 17 yrs ago (3/12/2005 UTC) at
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Passing to Redhouse (cos she asked for it), at the latest bi-monthly Ipswich meet-up
For my review, just read Tony's above. I agree.
I'm putting this into foxy737's bookbox.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Change of plans last minute swapped from bookbox for another book so i could release to fellow bookcrosser in trade as this is on their wishlist.
The setting is beautiful, imagining the cold winter snow whistling round me on the hottest days of the year so far has been wonderful. The story had me gripped, although I did begin to wonder at the beginning what I had let myself in for with all the ancient Greek history I was being told. Favourite character would have to be Francis, he is somewhat vulnerable but a good and decent person deep down that people are always bullying. I was shocked at the ending, and saddened, I liked all the characters, even Bunny, with the exception of the obnoxious twins.
I'm not normally keen on books that tell you who has been murdered at the very beginning of the book, but somehow, this book got away with it.
- ritao, Finland (INT)
- KatieLindsay, USA (INT)
- kkitten, Australia
Thank you for joining in, enjoy the book and PMing ritao for their address.
Thank you for the opportunity to read this book, I will send it to the next reader as soon as possible.