Tuesday, July 22, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - The Secret History

Every Tuesday, Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph- Tuesday Intros and invites readers to post the beginning of books they are reading or about to read or would like to read.

I'm currently more than half way through The Secret History, by Donna Tartt.  It's one of those books with a cultish following, and I can see why.  It takes place in a small liberal arts college in Vermont and the first-person narrator is a 20-year old student from California who enrolls in a classics program that has only five other students.  They take the study of Greek, history, language, culture and ethics very seriously.

Here's the opening of the Prologue:

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.  He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know.  It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history--state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston.
It is difficult to believe that Henry's modest plan could have worked so well despite these unforeseen events.  We hadn't intended to hide the body where it couldn't be found.  In fact, we hadn't hidden it at all but had simply left it where it fell in hopes that some luckless passer-by would stumble over it before anyone even noticed he was missing.

I'm hard pressed to think of another novel that starts by giving away the plot so completely at the outset, but then this story is not about whether the college kids kill their irksome friend, but whether they get away with it.  And that I don't know.

I'm enjoying the book though thankfully I'm having a hard time relating to either the main character or his fellow students.  Tartt, however, is a marvelous writer and Richard, her first-person narrator reminds me a lot of Nick Carraway from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Anybody else read this?  Does this opening intrigue you?  Can you think of any other novels that seemingly give away the story before it even begins as this one does?


  1. AnonymousJuly 22, 2014

    I'm curious about why they killed him.

    Mine for this week is at http://wp.me/pZnGI-9M

  2. It's a great opening; you're right, not many novels give away so much so fast. I've seen this book around, but I didn't know that it takes place at a college. It's an intriguing idea for a book...hope it's ending is as good as its beginning!

  3. I think it's a good ploy giving away the plot like that because I'd want to know if they got away with it.

  4. AnonymousJuly 22, 2014

    I've heard of this title, this author and of courses, The Goldfinch, which is hot now. I didn't know what this one was about and that it took place in college. Hmm, they hid a body...maybe I would enjoy it if it kept up the suspense and didn't get bogged down later on, being such a chunkster. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. I've heard wonderful things about this book, and from the intro, I'd keep reading. I hope you continue to enjoy it!

  6. I read this a long time ago and loved it, but don't remember tons of the details. It was nice to read the intro again - and boy is it a good one! I do remember that the book is very dark and probably a good sign that you don't identify with the characters...but they do make good reading!

  7. I haven't read it and agree that the opening is very intriguing!! Hope you enjoy the second half as much as the first!

  8. I loved this when I read it and don't remember a lot now (8+ years ago) but I know I loved it so enjoy. School settings are always a plus for me too.

    Thanks for joining us Jane and BTW, I highly recommend The Goldfinch by this author --loved it.

  9. I read it about 8 years ago too and loved it, although I do remember thinking it was rather too long, and the details have faded. It was the eccentricity that I liked and the suspense. I've started The Goldfinch and thought the beginning was fantastic - and then my interest fizzled out, but I'll get back to it because it's my book club's choice for summer reading.

  10. The opening does intrigue me.

    Ever since I read something that from Anthony Trollope on the issue I actually have some appreciation for when a writer gives major elements of a plot early. It can allow the writer to concentrate on other things such as character.

  11. I read this years ago, but don't remember much about it. I may have to dust my copy off.

  12. AnonymousJuly 28, 2014

    I've started with The Goldfinch (just starting), but so many thoughtful readers like you have begun at the beginning with this author, I plan to read The Secret History too. Also like you, I will have to be motivated by the writing and the psychological insights rather than the appeal (or lack thereof) of this plot. For anyone close to academia, this is certainly about the Dark Side of intellectualism, it sounds like. Many a crime spawned by that kind of pride and narcissism--some in life and many in literature!