If you like that, try these … The Secret History

Hi all!

Welcome to the first post of my new series:

 If you like that, try these …

Super original name, I know.

This isn’t a book blogging meme, although if people want to share their own recommendations, please do! This is just a new weekly post series I created (lol, as if this idea isn’t everywhere for book recs) for my blog where I share book (and sometimes movie or TV show) recommendations based on a book I’ve read.

I’m sure we’ve all read something similar before but I wanted to find a new, creative way of sharing book recommendations with all my followers! A new post in this series will come out every Thursday!

This week’s pick is … 

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‘My life, for the most part, has been very stale and colourless. Dead, I mean. The world has always been an empty place to me. I was incapable of enjoying even the simplest things. I felt dead in everything I did. But then it changed the night I killed that man.’

 

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What’s it about? 

The Secret History is about a young man named Richard who attends a private New England college, and joins an exclusive Classics class run by a charismatic, elitist teacher. There, he falls in with the students in the class, and unwittingly becomes party to the dangerous secret they’d go to any lengths to hide.

What are the themes/elements?

Alcohol and drug use, Ancient Greek mythology, elite college life, lonely narrator, obsession with beauty, murder, queer subtext, reality vs passion, secrets, taboo relationships, violence.

So…

 

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What’s it about?

Holden Caulfield, a sixteen-year-old dropout, has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Without telling his parents, he travels to New York City. There, he meets a colourful cast of strange and dangerous people, who effect him in one way or another. The books deals with the themes of identity, innocence, belonging, loss and connection.

What did I choose it?

Like Richard, Holden is a very lonely narrator, and he’s one that readers have varying opinions on. You either love him or you hate him. I love him. Why? Because he’s so clearly on the verge of an emotional breakdown and I can wholeheartedly relate to him. Holden’s story follows him as he traverses New York City, having strange adventures along the way, but like Richard, he’s ultimately looking for a place to belong.

 

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What’s it about?

Tom Ripley is offered a reward to go to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a trust-fund baby, and soon finds himself partying and living the moneyed life in Naples with Dickie.  But soon, an obsession begins to bloom and Tom finds himself wanting to be Dickie … perhaps enough to even kill him.

What did I choose it?

Patricia Highsmith’s writing is remnant of Donna Tartt’s: lots of allusions to existentialism and psychology, which The Secret History plays with too. But the main reason I chose this book is the themes of obsession, murder, betrayal and lies. Tom Ripley commits horrific crimes, like Richard and his friends, and goes to great lengths to cover them up. But most like Richard, Tom is jealous of his new friend, as he’s always been the type to be on the outside, looking in, but desperately wanting to be part of something.

 

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6101718What’s it about? 

Quentin Coldwater, a senior in high school, is still obsessed with the magical books he read as a child about a land called Fillory. He is surprised when he’s admitted into a secret school of modern sorcery, where the competition is harsh. There, he finds an eclectic group of friends and amazing spells, but he’s bored. But after graduation, he and his friends discover something incredible: Fillory is real. But it’s not the beautiful place he thought it was as a child.

Why did I choose it?

Quentin Coldwater, like Holden, is quite similar to Richard in that he is lost, lonely and bored. More than that, I chose this book because it’s set in a very elite, exclusive and secret college, remnant of Richard’s Classics class. The themes in this novel – the complicated magics – is something that The Secret History touches upon too, in such an inventive and intriguing way through its exploration of mythology.

 

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What’s it about?

Patroclus and Achilles are two very different boys, but a powerful friendship between them eventually develops into something more. Then, Patroclus is called to battle after the beautiful Helen is kidnapped by Prince Paris of Troy, and Achilles follows, little knowing that the next ten years will test everything they hold dear.

Why did I choose it?

It comes as no surprise that The Secret History concerns itself with Greek myth and history – after all, Richard and his friends are in a very elite Classics class. That’s one of the reasons I chose this novel; the other is due to The Secret History‘s queer subtext. There’s a character in The Secret History – one of Richard’s new friends – who is gay and crushes on Richard. Their relationship is very suggestive, while in The Song of Achilles Patroclus and Achilles relationship is apparent and developed. But, many people in the Classics world and beyond still don’t believe that Patroclus and Achilles were in a romantic relationship, hence why I connect it to Richard and his friend’s circumstances.

 

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30319086What’s it about?

When Oliver Marks is released from jail, the detective who put him there is waiting for him because he wants to know what really happened all those years ago. Ten years ago, Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at a classical school, where, over the years, Oliver and his friends began to let rivalries and ambition affect them. After opening night and a tragedy, Oliver and his friends then have to convince the police, and themselves, that they’re innocent.

Why did I chose it?

If We Were Villains is probably most like The Secret History, in that it features murder, secrets, and the dangerous boundary between real life and art (or, in The Secret History, myth). The book deals with the ideas of loyalty and betrayal, as well as descent into madness – which The Secret History replicates in Richard’s and his friends’ alcohol and drug use. Plus the queer context in If We Were Villains is a little more full on than The Secret History. 

 

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What’s it about?

In an unnamed South American country, a group of terrorists infiltrate the birthday party of a visiting Japanese mogul; they’re after the President of their country, but he stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera, and so, they have no choice but to take the guests as hostages. Over months, the guests and terrorists, who have no way to communicate with each other save for music, form unexpected bonds. But reality is slowly closing in.

Why did I choose it?

The reason I chose this book might not be obvious at all, because it’s very different from The Secret History and the other books I recommended. But ultimately I chose it because this book is about a group of people who find themselves living in a transcendent world, like Richard’s friends do for a short period of time (and which their Classics professor definitely does). Richard falls so hard for his friends, he begins to live in their world, a world of classical intellect, where logic wars with passion. But, like in Bel Canto, the real world is impending on their world, and their actions have consequences. I also chose this book because Bel Canto‘s obsession with music reminds me of The Secret History‘s obsession with beauty.

 

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16143347What’s it about?

A wealthy and seemingly perfect family spends every summer on a private island, but this summer is different as the cousins – who call themselves the Liars – prompt one cousin, Cadence, to remember an incident that happened two years prior.

Why did I choose it?

We Were Liars has very similar themes to The Secret History: wealthy and privileged main characters, deadly secrets, and the consequences of one’s actions. But it also focusses on the idea of self-acceptance, which Richard and his friends, like Cadence, very much struggle to do throughout the entire novel. We Were Liars also has a surprise twist towards the end, and while readers already know the twist in The Secret History (because it’s literally on the first page), the suspense is all too similar.

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And there we have it: if you like The Secret History by Donna Tartt, then try those seven recommendations!

Do you know of any other similar books that I didn’t mention? What do you think of my new series? What books would you like to see me discuss next time? Let me know!

10 thoughts on “If you like that, try these … The Secret History

  1. littlebookynook says:

    I soooooooo need to read The Song of Achilles!!!! I have been wanting to read it for ages, I think you have recommended it previously. I haven’t read any of the books on this list so I will have to keep an eye out. Great post!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. becandbones says:

    I love how you’ve done this post! Love love love.

    I’ve had The Secret History sitting on my shelf for a while and just haven’t been motivated to pick it up and when I first saw you compare it to The Catcher in the Rye I was all !!! because I hated that book with a passion. BUT I did like We Were Liars and If We Were Villains and The Song of Achilles are both on my TBR.

    So…. I dunno haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebookcorps says:

      Thank you Becca!!! I actually love the Catcher in the Rye but I get why people don’t like it. It’s only similar in the choice of protagonist – both Holden and Richard are really lonely people and just want to belong to a group, but in terms of plot they’re not similar lol, so there’s no need to worry!!

      Like

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