Jenna Bush Hager picked an old favorite for her next Read With Jenna pick. “‘The Secret History,’ to me, is almost as close to perfect as a book gets,” Jenna tells TODAY.com.
First published in 1992, “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt is now considered a modern classic to many people — Jenna included. “It is a pillar of the last 30 years in literature,” she says.
Jenna says she’s been recommending the book for the past three decades and now invites more people to join her in reading a book she says should be “celebrated constantly.”
“With a book as layered as ‘The Secret History,’ there's going to be new revelations every time you read it. I feel like this is the type of book that needs to be reread every 10, 20, 30 years — which I just cannot believe,” she says.
The novel is set at Hampden College, a small Vermont liberal arts school. At the snowy campus, Richard Papen, a student from California, becomes pulled into a close-knit community at the classics department. Richard looks back at the events that led to the death of fellow student Edmund "Bunny" Corcoran, starting with the pull that Classics professor Julian Morrow exerts over a group of undergrads, including Henry Winter, Francis Abernathy, and twin Charles Macaulay and Camilla Macaulay.
Jenna first encountered the book while she, too, was in college. Her sister, Barbara, recommended it to her.
“I was on spring break and I remember my friends were like, ‘Aren't you gonna come and hang out with us?’ And I was like, ‘Nope, I have a book to finish,’” she says.
Jenna says that even though she read the book on the beach, she felt as if she was “in the world, with all these characters.”
In a statement given to TODAY, Tartt – who also wrote the novels “The Little Friend” and “The Goldfinch” — said her first book also dates back to her own time as an undergrad. Tartt studied at Bennington College, a Vermont school speculated to be the basis of Hampden College.
"This novel began when I was nineteen years old, with a pencil and a spiral bound notebook from the drugstore. Back then, I couldn't have imagined how successful the book would be, nor that thirty years after its publication, people would still be reading the sentences I wrote at my mother's kitchen table when I was a teenager. I am grateful to all the readers who have loved the book into its long life, and happy that Jenna has chosen to introduce ‘The Secret History’ to her own group of devoted readers."
If you haven’t read it yet, Jenna says, now’s your chance. If you’re among the many readers who have already read “The Secret History,” Jenna invites you to join her in re-visiting it, and remembering “what made us fall in love with it for the first time.”
“Maybe my sister who first recommended it to me will reread it with me,” she adds.