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The Secret History (1992)

by Donna Tartt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
15,933463249 (4.06)693
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 byprivate library, iaross, Raquel19, WienSS, _Marcia_94_, scottring, luclicious, baldersdreams
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose
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    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (yokai)
  8. 31
    A Separate Peace by John Knowles (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Dark happenings at elite New England schools.
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    The Raising by Laura Kasischke (comtso)
    comtso: Mystery, murder and angst in college.
  10. 42
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    kraaivrouw: Dionysian events at college ...
  11. 31
    If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (RiversideReader)
  12. 31
    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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  14. 10
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    Aquila: Though it's a much nicer book.
  15. 10
    The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (Becchanalia)
    Becchanalia: Slow uncovering of a dark secret amongst a tight-knit group of friends. Lots of snow.
  16. 10
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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.
  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. 00
    Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (Vulco1)
    Vulco1: A look at elitist rich kids who get in over their heads and spiral out of control.
  19. 00
    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (urban_lenny)
    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 (29)
To Read (24)
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» See also 693 mentions

English (434)  Dutch (8)  Swedish (6)  French (6)  Italian (3)  Portuguese (1)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Latvian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (462)
Showing 1-5 of 434 (next | show all)
The paperback copy of this book which I read was lent to me by Peta. It was impressionable due to its heavy wear - a disease of white had almost completely devoured the spine and was branching off in both directions - and the sparse lines in blue marker which her dad had inscribed to highlight sections of the novel (and which I thought were more-or-less ostentatious in their profundity).

I don't think I've picked up a book this thick in a long, long time. It was a surprisingly addictive and easy read and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I'd finished it in a relatively short amount of time (this was the first book I'd read after my finals, I can't possibly describe the calm ecstasy of being able to spend hours a day reading again). Peta had recommended it to me and, though the abundance of references to classical Greek had initially daunted me to the point of fear, I found that it was by no means a challenging book. Apart from several brief pauses to google things due to the aforementioned Greek classicism and pop culture references, I found that the story flowed almost seamlessly from page to page, with little to no interruptions.

Perhaps the most well-executed element of the novel is its complex characterisation, which not only successfully planted a visual but also an emotional understanding of each of its characters. Henry, Camilla, Charles, Francis and even Bunny - it felt as if I'd got to know them just as Richard did himself. I still remember their individual traits, both physical and characteristic, which made them endearing but also very, very dislikable at the same time. This realism, this love-hate relationship that was established between the characters and myself, is probably the best tribute to the very success of Tartt's characterisation in the novel. Already, only two days after finishing the novel, I feel a desire to read it all over again, just to see, to hear, to feel those characters for another time.

This emotional attachment, I think, propels the reader to confront the tragedies which spiral out of control like threads spun loose. It forces one to consider why it had all gone rotten - to look grief and conscientiousness in the eye whilst standing in its own destruction. It was raining perpetually when I reached the end (pathetic fallacy at its best) and after the last sentence, that last receding silhouette, all I could do was to think of them. Oh how different things could have been!

Another aspect I really enjoyed was the figurative language sometimes employed by Tartt. I truly felt, like Richard, as if I was in some sort of dream, some illusion of the mind. Even when I wasn't reading I spent a good amount of time feeling as if in a daze of some sort. The language Tartt used penetrated and overtook my mind and my cognitive narration, and I saw things not through the eyes of my own, but through those of Richard. The sky was no longer grey and moody... It became overcast and oppressive, as if it would collapse under some great, ominous weight anytime soon. When reality inevitably forced its way through, however, these romanticisms begin to lose their power and these illusions are broken. The flowery language falls away with aspirations and dreams. Of all the things that had occurred in the story, perhaps the most painful was the realisation that the perfect, hazy veils were being torn down, slowly but surely.

If I were to criticise, I would point out some of the literary clichés which can give Tartt's novel a tediousness that doesn't bode well with its, by modern standards, abhorrent length. Apart from that however, there isn't much else for me to say. I'd complain about its length but I honestly wish it was longer now that I'd finished, feeling lonelier than I'd ever been, unbelievably, for five pretentious fictional characters.

I felt like I'd aged ten years when I shut the pages. If that isn't a sign of a good novel, I don't know what is.

God, I miss them ( )
  yuef3i | Sep 19, 2021 |
For the love of god, this book (just like The Goldfinch) could have had half the text removed and been all the better for it. It really is amazing how Tartt can populate her books with such unappealing, unsympathetic, louche characters, and we keep on reading about them. If I had to read one more tedious segment about drunkenness and drugs, or the minutiae of driving, smoking, eating, drinking, and sleeping, I would have thrown my kindle across the room. And yet. You want to find out what happens. That's it. That's her appeal. No idea why this book has such a cultish following. ( )
  MuggleBorn930 | Jul 11, 2021 |
The Secret History is smart, well-written, and slightly overheated high melodrama, but mostly of the delicious, page-turner variety. I can't imagine why I didn't read this back when it was published, and came to it by way of The Goldfinch, but it was still a pleasure to get lost in Tartt's first fictional world twenty-odd years later. I feel like I have been on a bit of bender with The Secret History's hard-drinking, pill-popping, trouble-finding characters, but I definitely enjoyed the ride. ( )
  CaitlinMcC | Jul 11, 2021 |
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1993) ( )
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
layered mystery/suspense (college kids cover up murder, secrets)
Another great work from Donna Tartt; for more in this genre try The Lake of Dead Languages or especially, If We Were Villains. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 434 (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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