An astounding début novel that delves beyond the cliché college drama into a much darker, sinister reflection on life of those lounging in the exclusive corners of society.
Richard starts studying at Hampden college and on a whim, suddenly changes his degree to Classics. Soon he is accepted into an eccentric and elite group that seem, for their unbelievable intelligence, completely oblivious to contemporary life. Before long Richard’s life is tangled with that of his newly made friends, a diverse and bizarre group, whom he seeks to understand. Yet the façade slowly gets worn down and whilst he’s enjoying an ordinary life, soon he realises that he is being plunged into a profoundly different world.
This is an incredible novel; firstly the meticulous level of detail applied to the plot stands out. Each character, sentence, sub-plot has been applied into the novel with such a pedantic level of care yet it does not draw any attention away from the powerful and compelling plot. This novel is undoubtedly a thriller; but that does mean everything happens at hyper speed. Despite the plot occasionally drifting along a river of tension, it was as equally compelling as when the most important action happened. This is not because of ill-use of writing techniques; Tartt manipulated language so that even when the pace is slow (predominately the first bit of the novel) it is still interesting to read. However, this was not achieved through the use of hyperbole but because of the reader’s care for the quirky characters.
I love the characters that are in the novel; they are far from the bland, dull eyed students that plod through the ink of many college novels today. It took Tartt 8 years to write this novel; it is clear that a portion of this went into painstaking character history. There is a shrouded history for each person, and it is only rarely that we can peer through the smoke and grab the meagre pieces of information given to us. Enough to survive on, but I’m always wanting more.
Do not be put off by the number of pages; it is worth the commitment. I think you will be hard pressed to find another thriller quite like this; it’s in a league of it’s own.