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The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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The Secret History (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Donna Tartt (Author)

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13,842384259 (4.07)655
Member:adam.koprowski
Title:The Secret History
Authors:Donna Tartt (Author)
Info:Penguin Books (1993), Edition: Reprint, 660 pages
Collections:Wishlist
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Work details

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

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  7. 51
    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (yokai)
  8. 30
    A Separate Peace by John Knowles (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Dark happenings at elite New England schools.
  9. 30
    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.
  10. 41
    Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Dionysian events at college ...
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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.
  14. 10
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    Aquila: Though it's a much nicer book.
  15. 10
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    Becchanalia: Slow uncovering of a dark secret amongst a tight-knit group of friends. Lots of snow.
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    Bookmarque: Reminiscent because of the group of students, but this murder is more shrouded and the supporting characters more distinct.
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(see all 32 recommendations)

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» See also 655 mentions

English (356)  Dutch (9)  Swedish (6)  French (6)  Italian (3)  Portuguese (1)  Norwegian (1)  Latvian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (384)
Showing 1-5 of 356 (next | show all)
Having been completely taken with 'The Little Friend', I entered this book with high anticipation. I was not let down. Tartt may take a long time to write her books, both of her novels appear to have taken a decade apiece in writing, but her results are nothing less than staggering.

'The Secret History' is linked with Bret Easton Ellis' 'Rules of Attraction' and Jill Eisenstadt's 'From Rockaway', but only in the lightest manner. Ellis seemed preoccupied with referencing the shared setting, but Tartt is more interested in her story. She creates an almost claustrophobic social group that naturally would mostly be unaware of the rest of the student body.

A couple references sneak in, a suicide of a freshman girl (though in a different semester), a phone booth occupied by a girl speaking German, possible allusions to Clay from 'Less Than Zero' and Lauren's friend Judy.

The central event of the novel occurs immediately, the reader knows what's going to happen and clues to how it will affect the rest of the students. In that sense its much like the Greek dramas and legends, no pretense was made about original storytelling, rather it was how the story was presented that mattered.

The narrator, Richard, is drawn into this tight group of immaculate scholars and through his eyes things, from the anachronisms of Henry and Julian to secret rites, become terribly plausible which in other writers hands might have become ridiculous.

Tartt's humor is also terribly funny. The central group of characters are fairly isolated among themselves but there is a large supporting cast of faculty, students and family that are at times viciously sent up or observed in such a way you're taken completely off-guard. Tartt may write on a grander scale than her peers, but her sense of irony and dark humor mark her generation. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
The first thing you should be aware of is that everyone in this book is a dickhead. Even our narrator - the least offensive character - is a bit of a prick. The murder victim, motive, and the killers are outed by our narrator in the first chapter (hint: it's the narrator and his friends). So what's the point of a murder mystery novel where we already know whodunnit? The mystery isn't in the murder - it's in the murderers. The book is part philosophical treatise on human nature, part university slice-of-life, and part coming-of-age (kind of).

And what a thrill ride. Even though everyone in this book is someone you don't want to be associate yourself with IRL, everyone - even the overcooked druggie kind-of-friend - is a thoroughly sympathetic character. Donna Tartt, put simply, made me empathise with a bunch of burnt-out, snobby, too-self-sure Classics students at a pompous Liberal arts university in the American Northeast. Who killed their friend, by the way. Despite being the central core of the book, the murder is a backseat to the narrator and his friends - a clique of pseudo-outcasts - and how they amble around each other and their straining relationships to both themselves and each other.

The murder, rather than forcing never-ending guilt on our lovable bloodthirsty crew, forces them to confront the fact it wasn't just their comrade that went down that ravine. Or perhaps not. Despite being intelligent, articulate persons; our cast are just too smart to understand themselves, and it is from this disconnect that Tartt exploits. She weaves parables from Ancient Greece as easily as she does references to contemporary (… 1990s) culture.

It is a testament to her writing that this book feels timeless. I didn't realise this novel was set in the early 90s until I checked the copyright page in the front of the book. While I am sure the introduction of mobile phones and social media would have changed the entire story significantly, it wouldn't change what the book is about, per se: what is the self, when one sacrifices the self to the group?

Despite the book being over 600 pages long, it felt like Tartt wrote enough. This isn't a book you should read over a few days. Give it a week to settle in your head. Her writing, so vivid and yet so understated, made me feel like I was another student at their university who just happened to be disembodied enough to observe everything.

But, as I said at the start: everyone in this book is an absolute dickhead. Possibly even you. ( )
  yassie_j | Feb 11, 2019 |
I've been meaning to read this for a long time, and especially so after loving The Goldfinch a couple of years ago (although I didn't get on with The Little Friend). The Secret History did not disappoint at all - Donna Tartt's considerable writing talents are showcased to their fullest here, and they seem all the more incredible considering this was her debut!

I love her descriptions of people, places and things that can be particularly difficult to describe, like the quality of light at a particular time of day or year. And I particularly admire her knack for making big characters (Bunny in particular) leap off the page through the lens of a not so memorable protagonist.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Tartt does next! ( )
  mooingzelda | Jan 31, 2019 |
Second time reading this novel. It was really a great way to spend 8 hours sitting in a jury waiting room. The first time I read this novel was 2006 I think, right before I started college and I was really amazed, thinking WOW, this is what college is like. Well, this is not what college is like, but in the past 12 years I've really forgotten so many of the details of this book aside from the one BIG plot point that reading it again was a really wonderful experience. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
Richard Papen, a relatively impoverished student at a New England college, falls in with an exclusive clique of rich, worldly Greek scholars. "THE SECRET HISTORY tells the story of a group of classics students at an elite American college, who are cerebral, obsessive and finally murderous.
  JRCornell | Dec 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 356 (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 (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tartt, Donnaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Wilde, BarbaraDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, ChipDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landolfi, IdolinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lange, Barbara deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larsen, IdaLouTranslatorsecondary 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
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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...
Haiku summary

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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140167773, 0141037695

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