The Secret History by Donna Tartt – I don’t know how to describe my experience of The Secret History. It is about an elite group of college students who primarily study Classics under a dynamic mentor named Julian. They have special status at their college and are seen by the other students as odd and mysterious. For reasons that are very logical to themselves (and, disturbingly, to the reader) they murder one of their members, Bunny, and the rest of the novel unravels the mystery of why he is murdered and explores the aftermath of their decision. I started out absolutely adoring this novel. The first half is a brilliant piece of atmospheric writing, placing the reader straight into beautiful and rural Vermont at a small, elite college with wealthy, eccentric and intelligent students. But the second half…oh, brother. I hated it. I hated reading about their endless drunken binges, drug fests and rotten, selfish antics. I wished all of them had been murdered. I only suffered through the mess because of the hope that things would magically right themselves by the end. And there was redemption. The ending was unexpected yet beautiful and right. So, I had very strong feelings about this book and I can’t decide if I really think it is gorgeous or silly or a big mash of both, but it is worth reading.
The Blush by Elizabeth Taylor – The Blush is a collection of stories by Taylor, a much admired author among bloggers. I have tried to read several of Taylor’s novels and could not connect with them at all so I bought this volume hoping that her stories would be a better introduction to her writing. And they were. To me, her writing is cold and hard to embrace, but it is worth giving her prickly prose a shot because there is lots of humor, truth and spark in her characters and her writing. I like that her stories are all very different, focusing on different settings, classes, and time periods. This lady is harsh on her characters and spares no embarrassing detail of their lives. I cringed through quite a few of the stories because I just felt so sorry for the characters and I was uncomfortable for them. She really has no pity at times. My favorite story of the bunch is called ‘Poor Girl’ and is a ghost story, though an ambiguous one. It is quite sensual and impressively dark Victorianish – it somewhat reminded me of Sarah Waters. I’m glad I read The Blush because I no longer fear Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, I am currently reading At Mrs. Lippincote’s and think it is fantastic.
Have you read either of these books? Are there any authors that you can’t connect with?