Donna Tartt's The Secret History

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The Secret History: what makes this book such an effective anti-hero story?

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, published in 1992, is an incredibly well-written and unique piece of literature, effective due to its use of eccentric characters, backwards storytelling and a lyrical and dreamlike prose that places the reader right inside the scenes set in the novel. Among several other reasons, this novel has become a famous bestseller, considered to be a modern classic.

The first point to note is that being an anti-hero story, this novel is not intended to show the kindness and positive traits of human nature, but rather to show the complete opposite, to evoke a response of shock and disgust. This novel deals with the darkest corners of the humanity, its main characters being murderers, remorseless, greedy, prideful, dishonest, violent, alcoholics or drug users. As well as this, several of the characters have deep-rooted flaws which are not usually explored in literary works, such as panic disorders, insomnia and depression.
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Even though these characters, upon looking closer, appear to be a representation of the dark and hidden sides of people, this theme strangely makes the characters relatable. Whilst reading and engrossed in this detailed and suspenseful world, the style of writing places over the characters a soft, hazy film, which makes their acts almost seem justifiable, but only when the reader takes a step back and examines these characters individually do they realise how far they are from being good people. This is effectively woven into the theme of the harshness of beauty. The novel is written lyrically, given a timeless and dreamlike quality to it, but only when that is ripped away is the harsh truth