I have heard about this book for what feels like ages: highly literate friends of mine shocked and stunned when I told them I hadn't read it; many who plant Proust and Woolf regularly on their top ten lists would also place this book on their top ten list of both contemporary and all-time favorite novels; etcetera. I feel like I've owned a copy of this book forever, and it was a wonderfully compelling read—almost addictive in its prose, its characterizations, its unrivaled setting of mood. Tartt is a master of ambience, and The Secret History is less what one reviewer below calls it—something along the lines of a first-time novelist writing a long book to pack everything she wants in, to show her talent off, and so on—and much more a long, tedious, and claustrophobic study in the ominous. It can be downright uncomfortable to read this novel because of Tartt's expert use of mood and her control of the narrative through the first-person narration and her juggling of temporalities throughout. Structurally, this is a very sound and very wise book; I actually thought that one of the long chapters toward end (about three-quarters of the way through the book) was an oversight on Tartt's part, but, on thinking it over a bit more with this idea of the mood she's trying to set and alter slightly as the novel progresses, this actually works wonderfully. (I'm not saying which chapter because the location and events would be a major plot spoiler.) This is less a novel about plot—we learn what happens, for the most part, on page one—than it is a novel about the psychological depths of others as viewed by one very biased narrator. For that alone, it's well worth reading as a study in psychological realism and depth; coupled with the strange, ominous, and often creepy mood Tartt continues throughout, it's a compelling and masterful read. It's hard to believe this is a first novel, and I can well believe the immense pressure Tartt felt in writing her second which I look forward to reading soon.