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The Secret History (1992)

by Donna Tartt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
17,310494244 (4.05)707
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 forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.… (more)
Recently added byJFBCore, JFB87, private library, jeff__h, Arena800, DavidWoodyWood, peartree312, Michelle1Miller, ninaleonidovna
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose
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  8. 51
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    The Raising by Laura Kasischke (comtso)
    comtso: Mystery, murder and angst in college.
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    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.
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    Aquila: Though it's a much nicer book.
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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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    Becchanalia: Slow uncovering of a dark secret amongst a tight-knit group of friends. Lots of snow.
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    akblanchard: Dark happenings at elite New England schools.
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    urban_lenny: Similar New England setting, some similarities between the characters of Owen and Bunny, both stories told with the foreshadowing of death.
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(see all 33 recommendations)

1990s (54)
To Read (24)
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» See also 707 mentions

English (461)  Dutch (8)  Swedish (6)  French (6)  Italian (3)  Portuguese (1)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Latvian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (489)
Showing 1-5 of 461 (next | show all)
everybody say thank you donna tartt ( )
  ninaleonidovna | Oct 2, 2022 |
It started out alright, with a pretentious friend group occupied with ancient Greek and drinking champagne from teapots. I liked the atmosphere of autumn in a small university town filled with mystery. The characters were unlikeable, but I guess they’re supposed to be.

As the book went on, everything got worse. As soon as the mystery gets clarified, every page became a prelude to the inevitable murder, and after the murder every page was about not getting caught. The characters went from ‘arrogant, but that’s the charm’ to ‘annoying and confusing’.

Even when their dramatics were not enjoyable to read about anymore, it was grippingly written. It’s like a high speed train you know is going to wreck itself and yet you keep reading. I get why this is such an iconic book, even if I don’t feel like reading it again. ( )
  MYvos | Sep 28, 2022 |
"And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely?"
There's something very compelling about a murder mystery that tells the reader from the prologue the whos and hows; and then proceeds to try and convince that maybe, sometimes, murder is kinda ok.
None of the characters are likeable. They're pretentious, condescending and self-centered; and, whilst the narrator is clearly thorn between somewhat regret and resignation, not for one moment you're supposed to sympathize with their actions.
Within well-crafted and beautifully woven prose, The Secret History explores the awful morality of somewhat rich scholars with a superiority complex through naive and awestruck eyes, to the point that for half of the book I didn't even realize how manipulated our narrator was.
Enchanted by the concept of such picturesque narrative, one slowly realizes that the story could only meet it's end in unavoidable tragedy. ( )
  mpturra | Sep 19, 2022 |
7 July, 2017
There is something about that this book that is so enchanting, and I think it is the rhythm with which ideas are presented. Thoughts happen in a downwards cadence: a hint, warnings of increasing urgency, and then the boom. To present an example that doesn’t spoil anything:
Henry took a sip of his tea. ‘How,’ he said, ‘can I possibly make the Dean of studies understand that there is a divinity in our midst?’ [pp. 356]
This is Henry talking about Julian. The passage directly before this ends with a pessimistic joke and an allusion to Hell, which honestly grants this statement a kind of impact and clarity that makes my heart sing.
The whole novel is this tactful, through every plot and subplot. It is such a pleasure to read.
The beauty of the prose is something to consider, also. Frankly, I was too engrossed to bookmark many, but here is an example from the beginning:
And the nights, bigger than imagining: black and gusty and enormous, disordered and wild with stars. [pp. 12]
When I first picked it up my immediate impression was of how pretentious and awful everyone was, how shameless it was in its lusty descriptions of academia. I’ve read other books like that, but it became pretty clear after one hundred or so pages that The Secret History is the OG. I’m mostly thinking of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, which I’m pretty sure I hated, but which I also could not put down.
It’s possible The Secret History appeals to me because of its gentle self awareness? Richard positions himself as a bystander (as a reader), but the only reason the others in his story have any control over the narrative is because he grants it to them in his perception. At some degree, every person is only reacting; at some degree, no-one is really in control.
I liked it!
  best_bunyip | Aug 15, 2022 |
None of the characters is likable and everyone is drunk but I couldn't put this book down.
  sblock | Aug 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 461 (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.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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 forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

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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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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140167773, 0141037695

 

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