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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History (original 1992; edition 2004)

by Donna Tartt

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13,964387258 (4.07)657
Title:The Secret History
Authors:Donna Tartt
Info:Vintage (2004), Paperback, 576 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

Recently added bySaraChook, rena75, deesbooknook78, private library, elsewise, Lazylion73, nancethepants, hernameisbrennan, riaanw
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English (359)  Dutch (9)  Swedish (6)  French (6)  Italian (3)  Portuguese (1)  Norwegian (1)  Latvian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (387)
Showing 1-5 of 359 (next | show all)
I loved this for about the first third, liked it for the next third, and the final third was hard work, even tedious. By the end, I was so sick of these characters and also of the narrator telling me things for which Donna Tartt chose to give no evidence or examples in the story itself. One annoying instance of this is the character of Julian and the relationship and influence he has with his students. Why couldn't we see and feel this instead of just being told things like he had a strange charisma or they were fond of him or he seemed kind? We hardly see him at all, even though it is a long novel. And that is my other criticism. I wanted this story to be a lot tighter. I think it would have had more power. A disappointment in the end. ( )
  TwoBooksBlog | Jun 4, 2019 |
A long but engrossing story of a group of friends and their secret. It’s weird that it doesn’t quite seem to give a year but I think that kind of makes the story even weirder. I really liked this, look forward to any new books she may be working on. ( )
  jill1121 | Jun 1, 2019 |
It's more of a 2 1/2 - I liked the narration, the author has a pleasant voice, and the story was well written, but it was Crime and Punishment set in 1980's Vermont with college students. It seemed just as long too. I made it to the end because I wanted to find out what happened, but I entertained abandoning the story. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 359 (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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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.
Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen
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?
...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.
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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)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140167773, 0141037695

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