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The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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The Secret History (1992)

by Donna Tartt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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11,259295250 (4.09)564
Recently added byGary10, Skribe, vickimarie2002, coralie23, zenscribe, Amina5, ktran82, Baharak, private library, ahef1963
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» See also 564 mentions

English (276)  Dutch (8)  French (5)  Swedish (4)  Portuguese (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (296)
Showing 1-5 of 276 (next | show all)
quit at 75 pages ( )
  khumphreys2009 | Jul 9, 2015 |
Absolutely brilliant. ( )
  novewong | Jul 8, 2015 |
Somehow I'd thought I'd read this already but it turns out I hadn't. I'd probably started it and gotten distracted, which, with such a long book, is easy to do (at least for me) but fresh from The Goldfinch, I thought I'd (re)read only to discover . . . well, enough about me. I'm beginning to sound as self involved as the characters in this anti-mystery.

People in the other reviews were angered at this book for reasons which make no sense to me, or, maybe I just disagree with them. Maybe those readers were too self-involved to spend time with people who would have reminded them of themselves (if they dared let them), for the self-involvement in the book is that of youth and is a stage I imagine we all have to pass through (though some are stalled in the midst of it.) Like college kids everywhere, they think they know and understand much more than they actually do, and both learn and also unlearn a lot along the way.

What they learn is that their limited perspective is, well, limited. What they unlearn is that the new perspectives they gain are also limited, just limited different. Julian, the head of what could only be described as a cult, would say that the right limited perspective is a good one and that too much breadth not only costs you by not allowing for depth, but costs you the very experience of depth, which is valuable in itself. If we think of the modern world as one in which ADHD is, if not normal, at least understandably prevalent, our cult members instead immerse themselves in the world of the ancients which not only has different values, but a whole different way of experiencing reality. But even that is not enough, for even the ancients realized that having a self is so annoying that, despite comfort and privilege, we will do anything to get rid of it, if only for a little while.

One perspective that is singularly painful for our characters is that they are guilty of murder and that something that close to life and death can't be trivialized away. The book is ultimately about the consequences of this understanding and what it does, not only to the individuals, but to the relationships between them. This gets played out against a backdrop of the modern world with its police investigations, keg parties, spoiled rich people, class differences and hatreds, etc. In addition, we get tension between loneliness vs. real and imagined deep connection.

So what's not to like? Richard feels insufficiently male to me, for one, which served to reminded me that the author is female at times when this is distracting from the mood. Also, the (spoiler alert) suicide scene was less than convincing and seemed more for the purpose of moving the story along than anythings else. But the explanation that contrasted it to Julian's "cowardly" exit helped somewhat. ( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
I am not as happy about this book after finishing it as I was for the first few hundred pages. The story idea is interesting but it gets to be a real slog as it goes on. The drinking, drugs, love me, loves me not, seems to go on forever ad infinitem. I felt the book could have been a couple hundred pages shorter. The scene of Bunny's funeral was, perversely, a hoot. (not a spoiler. Bunny dies in the first line of the book) Utterly inappropriate sendoff and a real critique of the upper class.
The following IS a spoiler though: I didn't like the resolution with Julian. He was enigmatic enough that I expected he was somehow involved in the murders. When he just handed over the letter and disappeared, I felt let down. That was too simple a way out for the person who was the mentor and role model for the bizarre behaviour of the 4 'core' students.
There were many characters introduced that really didn't propel the story forward in any way. But the author still devotes some pages at the end to wrapping up their lives.
In some ways, I found this an amateurish book by a very talented writer. The descriptions and metaphors are tight and original. The tone is consistent and the point of view is consistent - ie Richard tells the story from the perspective of many years later and she holds that together consistently. I just felt it went in circles too many times and went on too long for what it ended up to be. Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment is long and detailed but doesn't go in circles. Tartt is no Dostoyevsky. But I wonder if she fancied herself to be when writing this. ( )
  lawrence | Jul 2, 2015 |
Of the late 1980s/early 1990s New England Ivy League Private School writers, Donn Tart has unfortunately written the least. Her classmates include Bret Easten Ellis. I can't remember the third one. This book was inspired by her time in college with Ellis, amongst others. And is a rather gripping and haunting account of what happens when five spoiled classics majors attempt to re-enact an ancient Greek religious act. Told in haunting first person prose...the story shows and does not tell, it leaves more questions than answers, and allows the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks. Her style reminds me a great deal of Shirley Jackson. And it is a book that stays with you long after you've read it. Skip Peter Straub's silly Dark Matter, Elizabeth Moon's flamboyant Walking the Moon, and sink into Donna Tartt's achingly brilliant The Secret History instead. ( )
  cmlloyd67 | Jun 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 276 (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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Epigraph
Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in storytelling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes.
-- PLATO,
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.
-- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE,
Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen
Dedication
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.
First words
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?
Quotations
...how I longed to be an orphan when I was a child!
[They were] sitting at a table that was spread with papers and pens and bottles of ink. The bottles of ink I remember particularly, because I was very charmed by them, and by the long black straight pens, which looked incredibly archaic and troublesome.
[The tutor] reached for a pen in a cup on his desk; amazingly, it was full of Montblanc fountain pens, Meisterstucks, at least a dozen of them.
"Guess what," said Bunny, "Henry bought himself a Montblanc pen." ... He nodded at the cup of sleek black pens that sat on Julian's desk. "How much are those things worth? ... Three hundred bucks a pop? ... I remember when you used to say how ugly they were. You used to say you'd never write with a thing in your life but a straight pen." ... Bunny picked [the pen] up and turned it back and forth in his fingers. "It's like the fat pencil I used to use in first grade," he said. ... "Now, what kind of pens do we all use here? Francois, you're a nib-and-bottle man like myself, no? ... and you, Robert? What sort of pens did they teach you to use in California?" "Ball points," I said.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:56 -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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