Reviewed by Fergus Lynch
For the third in our series of Launch Book Club reviews (this month’s book – The Secret History) we commissioned our Account Director Fergus Lynch to interview our biggest Donna Tartt fan, Fergus Lynch. Enjoy!
Fergus: Hi Fergus, thanks for giving up your time to talk to me about The Secret History.
Fergus: No problem at all Fergus, happy to be here.
Fergus: Now, I understand you took an unconventional approach to reading The Secret History. Is that correct?
Fergus: That’s right Fergus. As one of Britain’s lazier readers, I decided to skip the prologue. Upon finishing the book, I found out the prologue contains a fairly important piece of plot information, about the death of –
Fergus: No spoilers please Fergus!
Fergus: Ok. Well, I suppose for most readers The Secret Historyis a why/howdunnit rather than a whodunnit, as it was for me. It certainly gave me a whole new perspective on the piece, which I’ve attempted to convey to Donna several times, though letters, emails, text messages, and faxes.
Fergus: Fascinating. And am I right in thinking you really connected with the book because in some ways it mirrored your own experience at university?
Fergus: Yes, that’s right, though I experienced quite a lot more murder (as you might expect for a Nottingham grad) than Henry, Bunny, Francis and co. I often found myself carousing through the wooded hills of the East Midlands in search of spiritual enlightenment via a Greek bacchanal. In my case this was typically preceded by a night at the local Oceana, which featured scenes of such decadence and debauchery even the most liberal Athenian would have been appalled.
Fergus: Moving swiftly on, the #DarkAcademia trend on TikTok is credited with introducing The Secret History today’s youth. Why do you think it’s striking a chord with Gen Z?
Fergus: I have nothing to say to the youth of today.
Fergus: But if I were to push you?
Fergus: I’d say its appeal is universal isn’t it? Donna Tartt essentially copied and pasted her own college experience into The Secret History. She was the Richard Papen to a group of clever and elitist students who were obsessed with the lost upper-class glamour of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, set in Oxford in the 1930s. It’s not hard to imagine why Hampden College’s central quintet (Richard being the outsider, as Donna was), impeccably dressed, witty, affectedly and yet seemingly uncaringly cool, might appeal to today’s students. Perhaps it’s the overwhelmingly analogue feel to the book; characters are often uncontactable because they’re not all in a WhatsApp group, they read physical books, write cheques and smoke real cigarettes. The debauched antics of Hampden College’s students aren’t captured on camera phones and social media to haunt them for the rest of their lives. It’s not hard to see why that might appeal to young people.
I’m not saying any of this is particularly good (especially writing cheques and reading physical books) but perhaps because we want to recognise ourselves in these characters, we also yearn for their digital disconnection. And it doesn’t hurt that the book is incredibly well-written, the plot clips along and there’s a few dramatic twists and turns.
Fergus: Thanks. We’ll cut some of that out in the edit, but it was all good stuff. And on that note, I think we’ll leave it there. Thanks for your time, Fergus.
Fergus: You’re welcome, Fergus.