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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History (1992)

by Donna Tartt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,039283254 (4.09)555
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  11. 20
    The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (zembla)
    zembla: A clique of elitist students' involvement in murder, told in foreboding prose. Tartt's writing is quietly eerie where Handler's is showily clever, reflecting the difference in their narrators' ages.
  12. 10
    The Raising by Laura Kasischke (mistydream)
    mistydream: Mystery, murder and angst in college.
  13. 10
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    Aquila: Though it's a much nicer book.
  14. 10
    The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (Becchanalia)
    Becchanalia: Slow uncovering of a dark secret amongst a tight-knit group of friends. Lots of snow.
  15. 10
    A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine (Bookmarque)
    Bookmarque: Reminiscent because of the group of students, but this murder is more shrouded and the supporting characters more distinct.
  16. 10
    A Separate Peace by John Knowles (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Dark happenings at elite New England schools.
  17. 00
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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Something disturbing sometimes happens when young people congregate. These gothic tales feature young, bohemian, and intellectual characters becoming caught up in relationships that lead to tragic results.
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(see all 28 recommendations)


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» See also 555 mentions

English (259)  Dutch (7)  French (5)  Swedish (4)  Portuguese (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (278)
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
After brooding in silence for nearly a decade, twenty-eight year old Richard Papen decides to share his haunting secret. In his junior year of college, he was actively involved in the murder of a classmate. Taking the reader back to the fall of the early 1970’s to a small college in Vermont, Richard Papen begins his story. "The Secret History" takes on all the characteristics of an old fashioned murder mystery.

As a new student at Hampden College, Richard is selected to participate in an exclusive and isolated group of students to study advanced Greek. The professor - Julian Morrow - is somewhat of a celebrity. He is eccentric, mysterious, and charismatic... rumored to only accept pupils from well-to-do (or well-known) families. In some ways the atmosphere and plot reminded me of "The Dead Poets Society"... secretive, with a cult- like magnetism, but a lot more lethal.
If you are looking for an action-packed fast-paced drama, this book will definitely disappoint you. Instead, "The Secret History" is a long, intimate tale of psychological intrigue and suspense. You will read about the numbing fear of being exposed for participating in the plot of a murder, the paranoia of wondering if all those involved will keep their mouths quiet, and the terror of realizing the vulnerable situation of becoming a scapegoat… or even worse… another victim.

As the plot unwinds, with each new revelation, more questions arise. In speaking about fate, Professor Morrow makes a statement, “the country people who live around me are fascinating because their lives are so closely bound to fate that they really are predestined. But, I’m afraid my students are never very interesting to me because I always know exactly what they’re going to do.” Could he possibly know about the murder? Could he have foreseen the outcome of his mythological experimentations?

Then add to the mix the campus drinking parties... the weekly Friday night gathering, and a bash called “Thirsty Thursday”... and the eclectic cast of characters: the campus drug dealer, Judy Poovey the quad party girl, and of course the other 5 students from the Greek class. The most memorable character is the murder victim - Edmund (Bunny) Corcoran - an arrogant jerk who was on everyone’s nerves including mine. Donna Tartt definitely excels at character development.

And one last thing. You wouldn’t expect a book like this to have much humor, but several scenes were laugh-out-loud funny. You’ll surely enjoy the way everyone on campus puts their own spin on critical events which adds a nice touch of humorous satire. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Feb 5, 2015 |
This is a weird book for me to review. On the one hand: it's one of the most excellently written books I've ever read. On the other hand: dear God, please don't ever make me read it ever again. Please.

I've seen her referred to as somewhat Dickensian and considering my general set of emotions toward Charles Dickens' works, this makes perfect sense to me.

It's not a book that banks on the suspense of the "shocking" act as you are made aware of it in the first chapter. Instead, it's a densely packed, almost 600 page novel about How To Ruin Your and Everyone Around You's Lives. Don't get me wrong, it's deftly written, it's beautiful, it's complex.

But goddamn, is it not just a series of one thing more awful than the last. A cast of unlikable assholes, unlikable in each of their own unique ways, falling into the depths of depression, paranoia, addiction, and fear. It's claustrophobia in a book.

And then, in the end, no one gets what they want, no one is happy, no one is really living. Especially not the ones that managed to escape without losing their lives.


Yay. ( )
  dukedukegoose | Jan 26, 2015 |
I loved this book, although I'm not sure I know why—perhaps because it was like listening to someone tell a tale that had more to do with the characters that peopled it than with what actually transpired. I would say that the characters, including the narrator through his voice and others' reactions to him, were masterfully drawn. I was almost sorry when the book was at an end. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
I loved this book, although I'm not sure I know why—perhaps because it was like listening to someone tell a tale that had more to do with the characters that peopled it than with what actually transpired. I would say that the characters, including the narrator through his voice and others' reactions to him, were masterfully drawn. I was almost sorry when the book was at an end. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
This is an interesting book because you know from the start who did it, but not the why it was done. It was written in1992, and things were different then, no cell phones, different set of rules at colleges, and teenage values were just coming out of the 60's.
Tartt did a great job of building the characters in a way that you could totally visualize each of them and keep each straight who was who and what they may do. ( )
  bytheseabchcmbr | Jan 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
As a ferociously well-paced entertainment, ... "The Secret History" succeeds magnificently. Forceful, cerebral and impeccably controlled, "The Secret History" achieves just what Ms. Tartt seems to have set out to do: it marches with cool, classical inevitability toward its terrible conclusion.

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tartt, Donnaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Wilde, BarbaraDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, ChipDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lange, Barbara deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siikarla, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in storytelling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes.
Republic, Book II
I enquire now as to the genesis of a philologist and assert the following:
1. A young man cannot possibly know what Greeks and Romans are.
2. He does not know whether he is suited for finding out about them.
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For Bret Easton Ellis,
whose generosity will never cease to warm my heart;
and for Paul Edward McGloin,
muse and Maecenas,
who is the dearest friend I will ever have in this world.
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The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. (Prologue)
Does such a thing as "the fatal flaw," that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature?
...how I longed to be an orphan when I was a child!
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldy, self-assured, and, first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death., And that was just the beginning...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140167773, Paperback)

Truly deserving of the accolade "Modern Classic", Donna Tartt's novel "The Secret History" is a remarkable achievement - both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful. Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever. "It takes my breath away". (Ruth Rendell). "Enthralling ...image the plot of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment crossed with the story of Euripides' "Bacchae" set against the backdrop of Bret Easton Ellis' "The Rules of Attraction"...forceful, cerebral and impeccably controlled...ferociously well-paced...remarkably powerful". ("The New York Times"). Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and educated at the University of Mississippi and Bennington College. She is a novelist, essayist, and critic and author of "The Little Friend". "The Secret History" has been translated into twenty-four languages.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:15 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Richard Papen had never been to New England before his nineteenth year. Then he arrived at Hampeden College and quickly became seduced by the sweet, dark rhythms of campus life -- in particular by an elite group of five students, Greek scholars, worldly, self-assured, and at first glance, highly unapproachable.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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