The Allure of Donna Tartt


Every avid reader has that one author who they obsess over. They’ll hold onto every word they’ve written and devore every interview they’re the subject of. And for me, that one author is the living riddle that is Donna Tartt. 

I could go for hours attempting to explain my infatuation for that 59-year-old southern woman, but if I had to keep it sound it’s this: she’s just perfect. 

Since the start of Tartt’s writing career in 1992 with her critically acclaimed and cult classic The Secret History, there has been a wonderful allure surrounding her. 

Deciding that her work should speak for her. In an era where everyone strives to become a top trending social media influencer, this back-to-basics type of celebrity is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Unlike other authors who spend more time on Twitter ranting about controversial subjects in the hopes to seem more morally superior to others, Donna Tartt only comes out of hiding when she has a tale to tell. 

And even though it takes a decade for her to complete a project, all of us Tartt lovers agree that it’s well worth the wait. 

Her three books, The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch, are pure works of divine art. 

Her complex stories are webs of romance, death, surrealism, and tragedy. My introduction to her work was in high school with arguably her strongest novel, The Goldfinch. 

The story chronicles the tragic life of Theo and the famous painting which shares the same name as the book’s title. After a terrorist attack that kills Theo’s mother, he accidentally steals a painting that his mother loved in her youth.

This kicks off a series of events that have span Theo’s childhood to his adult life. Tartt brilliantly equates Theo’s mother with the classic real-world painting, making him desperate to hold onto it forever. 

As someone who has had to deal with his fair share of grief, I can’t help but to relate to every aspect of Theo’s story and unwillingness to let go of someone who was undeservingly taken from him. 

After devouring through the almost 800-word character piece, I immediately began my journey into The Secret History. Her debut novel is easily her most dense work, yet also the most satisfying to reread and analyze. 

Richard Papen, the book’s protagonist, narrates the story and tells the audience about his obsession with perfection and the consequences of secrets and lies he told during his college years. 

Papen and his elitist friends eventually murder one of their own, and in the aftermath each of the character erratic and destructive behaviors that ruin their lives.

At first, Papen is pretty much in love with his tight-knit group of wealthy 20-somethings friends, but eventually after the murders he grows to resent each of them. It makes him physically sick knowing that due to the murders they committed, they will be forever bound together. 

Richard can do nothing about it. This section of the book in particular stands out as my favorite simply for the fact that Tartt somehow perfectly portrays such pathetic broken characters who suffer a lifetime of pain. 

Many writers come and go, but not many can achieve the level of emotion Tartt can convey without even trying. Since reading these two books, I have most likely reread each of them half a dozen times. 

And I’m emotionally satisfied every single time. I have yet to read The Little Friend, it’s staring at me as I write this. 

But it’s safe to say the second I open it, nothing will be strong enough to pry my eyes off of those pages until I finish every page.