The Whole Sick Crew

Thomas Jones

  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
    Bloomsbury, 555 pp, £16.99, October 2002, ISBN 0 7475 6211 3

Greek tragedy contributed to the mise en scène of Donna Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History (1992). Four classics students, privileged even by the standards of the elite Vermont college they attend, conduct a bacchanal and, in their frenzy, kill a local farmer, tearing him apart in much the same manner that Pentheus is done away with in Euripides’ Bacchae. Their secret is discovered by two other classicists, both friends of theirs: Edmund ‘Bunny’ Corcoran responds with blackmail; Richard Papen, the narrator, agrees to help dispose of Bunny. It’s an improbable set-up, but Tartt manages it deftly enough for that not to matter.

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