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

by Donna Tartt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,652261267 (4.1)526
Member:stgemma
Title:The Secret History
Authors:Donna Tartt
Info:Penguin Books (1993), Paperback, 660 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:books I own, academia, college, crime, murder, New England, thriller

Work details

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

  1. 141
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  4. 50
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    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (yokai)
  10. 20
    A Traitor to Memory by Elizabeth George (DAR1102)
  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
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    A Separate Peace by John Knowles (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Dark happenings at elite New England schools.
  16. 10
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    mistydream: Mystery, murder and angst in college.
  17. 10
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    Bookmarque: Reminiscent because of the group of students, but this murder is more shrouded and the supporting characters more distinct.
  18. 11
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(see all 26 recommendations)

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» See also 526 mentions

English (243)  Dutch (7)  French (5)  Swedish (3)  Portuguese (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (261)
Showing 1-5 of 243 (next | show all)
I found this to be one of those books that, once started, would barely let me up for a glass of water. While the whole thing certainly stretches the bonds of credulity at times, Tartt's story, of a quintet of students at a small Vermont liberal arts college who find themselves caught in a very sticky tangled web of their own weaving, makes for captivating reading from start to finish. I'm glad I read it, but I have to say I'm also glad it's done, too, so that I can get the thoroughly unlikable characters out of my head. ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 12, 2014 |
The Secret History is Janus-faced. It is charming, ably written, entertaining throughout; it is plodding, indulgent, thematically shallow. Its plot brings together many of my fictional soft spots (small liberal arts colleges, New England, classics, murder); its plot was, in my opinion, its dullest feature. I do not at all regret reading it; I will never pick it up again.

One might think that, in a novel like this, these oppositions should blossom in some sort of Apollonian and Dionysian synthesis, but no. All that all this amounts to is the fact that the book doesn't live up to its full potential.

The Secret History is no must-read, but it is a veritable can-read, and for all it fails to be, it's still hard for me to dislike it too harshly for what it is. ( )
  williecostello | Aug 10, 2014 |
Richard is a college student from a humble upbringing, who is admitted to a prestigious private university with the support of significant financial aid. Although he has few ideas about the future, Richard seeks out and joins a small group of students pursuing a Greek Studies major, under the mentorship of one highly selective and eccentric professor. This select group is secretive, rigorous and exclusive, but for the first time, Richard finds himself part of a tight group of friends. As the novel starts out, the reader is informed that the group will kill one of its members but the reason is not clear. As the story slowly unfolds, the reasoning of the group, heavily influenced by drugs and the philosophies the group studies, begins to unravel, leading to poor choices and ultimately to murder.

I enjoyed this story, which incorporates conformity theory to explain the mindset of the young people involved in the murder of one of their own. I read this novel after "The Goldfinch" and although different, the two are interesting to compare, as they have similar themes running through them. I loved the psychology in this book but, as with the Goldfinch, became tired of the constant use of drugs and alcohol, which were present on almost every page of this book. As with "The Goldfinch"l, the constant influence of these substances detracted from the likeability of the characters, who never fully appeared to experience negative consequences for their addictive behaviors. Overall, however, this was a fast-paced literary novel, which I thought was more enjoyable than "The Goldfinch." ( )
  voracious | Jul 28, 2014 |
Amazing, impossible to put down. Would recommend this to anyone/everyone. ( )
  Tilda.Tilds | Jul 23, 2014 |
I have heard about this book for what feels like ages: highly literate friends of mine shocked and stunned when I told them I hadn't read it; many who plant Proust and Woolf regularly on their top ten lists would also place this book on their top ten list of both contemporary and all-time favorite novels; etcetera. I feel like I've owned a copy of this book forever, and it was a wonderfully compelling read—almost addictive in its prose, its characterizations, its unrivaled setting of mood. Tartt is a master of ambience, and The Secret History is less what one reviewer below calls it—something along the lines of a first-time novelist writing a long book to pack everything she wants in, to show her talent off, and so on—and much more a long, tedious, and claustrophobic study in the ominous. It can be downright uncomfortable to read this novel because of Tartt's expert use of mood and her control of the narrative through the first-person narration and her juggling of temporalities throughout. Structurally, this is a very sound and very wise book; I actually thought that one of the long chapters toward end (about three-quarters of the way through the book) was an oversight on Tartt's part, but, on thinking it over a bit more with this idea of the mood she's trying to set and alter slightly as the novel progresses, this actually works wonderfully. (I'm not saying which chapter because the location and events would be a major plot spoiler.) This is less a novel about plot—we learn what happens, for the most part, on page one—than it is a novel about the psychological depths of others as viewed by one very biased narrator. For that alone, it's well worth reading as a study in psychological realism and depth; coupled with the strange, ominous, and often creepy mood Tartt continues throughout, it's a compelling and masterful read. It's hard to believe this is a first novel, and I can well believe the immense pressure Tartt felt in writing her second which I look forward to reading soon. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 243 (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!
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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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 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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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