A Classic Couple: Chronicle of a Death Foretold and The Secret History

I don’t often enjoy reading books that are really dark, unsettling, and morbid, but this week’s Classic Couple is certainly an exception. Published a little over a decade apart, Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (1981) and The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992) both have similar structures as murder mystery novels with a twist.

Answers your question before it is even asked || Both of these novels waste no time telling the reader exactly what death will occur by the end of the story. Rather than reading to see who has died, you’re reading to learn under what circumstances they died. When I first started reading The Secret History a few years ago I was a bit dubious about this format– after all, how interesting could it be if you already know who is going to die? Well, I stand corrected. Tartt’s attention to detail as well as the convoluted, bizarre plot and intriguing characters made the novel even more engaging and interesting than I had initially anticipated. Chronicle of a Death Foretold definitely confirms the effectiveness of this inside-out format with its suspense and ability to pull readers in from the very first page.

Complicates the notion of blame || One of the most interesting aspects of these books is the way they complicate the notion of blame. To a certain extent, one could argue that numerous people are involved with the deaths of Bunny and Santiago Nasar alongside those who literally, physically killed them. A sense of communal blame is especially prominent in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, in which basically the entire community knows that the two Vicario brothers plan to murder Nasar but no one actually tells him. Should these people also be held responsible for the death of Nasar? Should they be considered accomplices in this crime? Or are they simply bystanders trying to do their best to stay out of trouble? These are the sort of questions that make these kinds of novels so difficult to put down.

Still surprising and suspenseful || Despite the large amount of information presented in the beginning, these novels still manage to be surprising and suspenseful. In particular, I was taken aback by how unexpected the deaths felt at the end even though I had plenty of warning ahead of time that they were coming. I think convoluted plots play a role in this surprising feeling (particularly in the case of The Secret History, in which many bizarre events occur), as do the gory details and the suddenness of the event after so much leading up to it. All at once what was a mere story for so long abruptly becomes reality, and the brutal force of the death is hard to swallow.

If you’re ever in the mood for a different kind of murder mystery, definitely check out these haunting, dark, lyrically written novels!

Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.

What are your thoughts on these books? What other books could they be paired with? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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16 thoughts on “A Classic Couple: Chronicle of a Death Foretold and The Secret History

  1. I’ve always admired The Secret History from afar whenever I visit the bookstore. The title alone is intriguing, I mean, what is this Secret History? But I was always put off by that air of mystery that’s why I haven’t go around to picking it up or reading it.

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  2. it’s been well over four years since i’ve read the secret history and i still think about it a lot….. it is just THAT good of a book, isnt it?? so ur post is making me extra excited abt chronicles of a death foretold!! 😮 i actually never read anything by marquez before, even tho i tried to read 100 years of solitude a few times…

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    1. I feel the same way! It sticks in your head for so long afterwards… one of the few books that I really remember in great detail. I highly recommend Chronicle of a Death Foretold if you’re looking to read something by Marquez— it’s an excellent one!

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      1. omg i rly does….. there’s just o way to feret it tbh, it stays w u forever. tartt is such a talented writer, im in awe.
        yeah i think i will go for that one, he deserves at least one more chance from me!

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  3. I love this format! I read a few detective stories recently that started with the ‘who died’ story first (to get it out of the way). I guess this format opened up an opportunity to explore who did it and why. Being able to explore the character’s’ motives is something I personally very appreciate as a reader. I really want to read these books now!

    And that question about ethics / morals is super interesting. My gut tells me yes, if you know about something that potentially can harm someone and you don’t warn them.. they you are sort of taking a part in it. It’s not as black and white though and I’m really glad questions like that do get asked. Yep, I’m definitely sold Holly! 😊👏

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    1. So glad you’re sold on this! 🙂 I ask love books that explore characters’s motives—anything driven by characters rather than mostly by plot in general. I’m a sucker for fascinating character development! 🙂

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  4. I did not like The Secret History one bit. Everyone kept recommending it to me and the book was just so messed up, the characters were so miserable… it was like having your soul sucked out by the Dementors. I don’t usually hate a book but if there is one I hate then it’s definitely this one.

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    1. Oh no! I took the awfulness of it to be the aim of the book–we’re supposed to appreciate it and be unsettled by it, not necessarily enjoy it? I’m sorry you didn’t like it, though!

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