Books Based on Aesthetics Rating and Reviews: Dark Academia Version

By Emma Woodhead

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The Secret History

Author- Donna Tartt

Rating- 5/5

The Secret History is about an elite group of college Greek studies students and the mental tolls they face after they murder an innocent farmer and their classmate.

Donna Tartt starts the book by saying that Bunny has been dead for several weeks, and the story follows Richard Papen’s narrations. Although Richard tries to make himself out to be innocent in the situation, his unreliable narration shows his flaws as he lies while both sober and under the influence multiple times to the reader and the cast of characters. The six students: Richard, Henry, Francis, Charles, Bunny, and Camilla, develop relationships with one another in the first half of the book, and the second half consists of the remaining students dealing with the aftermath of Bunny’s murder. Drugs, drinking, guilt, and madness start to take control of the students as they try to avoid any suspicion by the police and Bunny’s family.

This book was gripping, and the characters were addictive to read. If you like character-based novels, this is definitely the book for you, and it is an excellent staple for the Dark Academia genre.

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The Dante Club

Author- Matthew Pearl

Rating- 4/5

The Dante Club is a great mystery novel for those who love Dante and his work. The book is based in 1865 Boston and follows an elite group of Dante Scholars Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields as they are finishing America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy. Their plans fall apart when a series of murders start to occur in both Boston and Cambridge. The group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell’s punishments from Dante’s Inferno.

This book was entertaining to read. If you haven’t read The Divine Comedy before, I would recommend it just so that you aren’t walking in blind, but it is not required to understand the story.

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The Historian

Author- Elizabeth Kostova

Rating- 1/5

The story follows a young girl as she is engulfed with the studies of former professors and her family history. The young woman listens to the accounts of her father, Paul, and his partner Professor Rossi as they had tried to connect Dracula to Vlad the Impaler. The story shifts between the narrations of both her and her father as the stories are pieced together, and dark family secrets are brought to light.

The writing of the novel is beautiful, and Kostova’s talents and diction shine in the wording. However, I found the story very slow, and it was hard to get through. I couldn’t get attached to the character or care about the secrets they wanted to uncover. I also felt the ending and the relationships the family has with the subject to be predictable. The book was placed on such a high pedestal by other reviewers that it fell short of my expectations.

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Sweet Days of Discipline

Author- Fleur Jaeggy

Rating- 3.5/5

Sweet Days of Discipline follows the story of corruption and loss of innocence. Young Eve, the narrator, describes life as a captive of the school and her designs to win the affections of the apparently perfect new girl, Fréderique. Eve starts to obsess over her and tries different ways to get the girl’s attention and admiration. The novel is very short but is compact and moves quickly as the spiral into madness occurs for Eve.

I first read this book in college and only had a single night to read it because it had gotten lost in the mail and arrived late. I didn’t enjoy it because I had to rush through it, but this summer, I went back to reread the book with the time and attention it deserved, and instantly my love for it skyrocketed, and I’m sure with every time I read it, the rating will increase.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author- Oscar Wilde

Rating- 5/5

The Picture of Dorian Gray followed a young and handsome Dorian in his attempts to stay young forever. As his sins start to stack up and he loses sanity, the painting that Basil did, begins to decay and show an ugly side of him. Dorian starts to spiral out of control and, at the end of the book, has to deal with the consequences of his sins.

Oscar Wilde’s writing and prose are magnificent. The first time I read this book, I could not put it down. Dorian, Basil, and the rest of the cast are gripping and provides something new to the story. It is a fast-paced story and will have you hooked from page one. I highly recommend it for anyone, and it is an easy classic to read compared to many others. If you want to try your hand at classics or the dark academia genre as a whole, this is a great starting point.

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