The Secret History

The Secret History

Book - 1992
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Random House, Inc.
Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, established herself as a major talent with The Secret History, which has become a contemporary classic.

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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Baker & Taylor
A transfer student from a small town in California, Richard Papen is determined to affect the ways of his Hampden College peers, and he begins his intense studies under the tutelage of eccentric Julian Morrow. BOMC & QPB Alt. Tour.

Blackwell North Amer
Storytelling in the grand manner, The Secret History is a debut remarkable for its hypnotic erudition and acute psychological suspense, and for the richness of its emotions, ideas, and language.
These are the confessions, years afterward, of a young man who found at a small Vermont college the life of privilege and intellect he'd long coveted - and rarely has the glorious experience of youth infatuated with knowledge and with itself been so achingly realized. Then, amazed, Richard Papen is drawn into the ultimate inner circle: five students, worldly and self-assured, selected by a charismatic classics professor to participate in the search for truth and beauty. Together they study the mysteries of ancient Greek culture and spend long weekends at an old country house, reading, boating, basking in an Indian summer that stretches late into autumn.
Mesmerized by his new comrades, Richard is unaware of the crime which they have committed in his dreamy, unwitting presence. But once taken into their confidence, he and the others slowly and inevitably begin to believe in the necessity of murdering the one classmate and friend who might betray both their secret and their future.
Hugely ambitious and compulsively readable, this is a chronicle of deception and complicity, of Dionysian abandon, of innocence corrupted by self-love and moral arrogance; and, finally, it is a story of guilt and responsibility. An astonishing achievement by any standard, The Secret History immediately establishes Donna Tartt as a supremely gifted novelist.

Baker
& Taylor

A transfer student from a small town in California, Richard Papen is determined to affect the ways of his Hampden College peers, and he begins his intense studies under the tutelage of eccentric Julian Morrow

Publisher: New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1992.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780679410324
0679410325
Branch Call Number: TAR
Characteristics: 523 p. ; 25 cm.

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List - Station Eleven
JENNELISE HAFEN Feb 01, 2018

On Emily St John Mandel's list of favorites.


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WestSlope_TheaH Aug 21, 2018

Donna Tartt’s suspenseful and atmospheric 1992 debut novel is a murder mystery set at a private college in New England. I highly recommend this story to fans of Tana French’s The Likeness; both stories share a keen understanding of the dynamics of tight-knit groups of twenty-somethings. Tartt’s writing is character-driven, compelling, and stylistically complex. The Secret History is a bestseller and has a cult following. Tartt went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her 2013 novel The Goldfinch.

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jontalk
Jul 23, 2018

Having struggled through "The Goldfinch", I decided to read this story due to the author's command of the English language and character development. The story provides tremendous insight into the thinking process of the elite viewed through the eyes of a 'commoner' coupled with darkness and incest. Tratt is a gifted storyteller and in my opinion this story is superior to Goldfinch in many ways. Having met someone that encountered her at a book signing, it comes as little surprise her characters come from old money, which I always find fascinating. Regardless this is a story well told and highly recommended.

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jinty
May 24, 2018

Fantastic book. Well-developed characters and extremely fast-paced. Couldn't put it down. For anyone who likes well-developed and literate writing

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PdLorinel
Mar 22, 2018

One and a half stars because this isn't the worst writing I've ever read.

My wife and I think that Donna Tartt must have been homeschooled, never made any real friends until late in life, grew up watching old black and white movies with her parents, and reading dime novels and mythology from before 1960. Her History is written as if it takes place sometime before 1963, yet context clues place it much later. Her main character saw the moon landing on TV in 1969, and is only 20 when the story takes place. Since I did watch the moon landing on TV at age 8, I realize that I couldn't have been much younger and remember the event. My brother-in-law, two years younger, barely recalls the landing at all, and he was 6. So, if I give the character the age of 5, to be generous, that would mean they were born in 1964, which - if they're 20 now - puts the story in 1984. Yet, characters in the book speak of 1982 as if it's years ago, long long ago.

Bunny as a male name, the old-school style of dressing, the pretentious vocabulary, all leads one to think she really meant it for a much earlier time, but then we have a side character doing Jane Fonda's workout videos (mid to late '80s). I really couldn't tell if the author had actually lived through the time she was writing about, so we looked up her age - she's only two years younger than I am. Supposedly, we lived through many of the same events, but you sure can't tell it from her writing.

I'm supposed to be making notes in this book for a special project. So far, most of my notes are, "When was this book set???" Or, in some cases, the meanings of words I had to look up, such as 'carious' used to mean the after-effects of precarious, which isn't really an appropriate use of the word. I think the writer works at being pretentious.

I don't know Greek and only a bit of Latin, so I have had to learn to guess well on context whenever they speak "privately." The story is extremely slow-moving but I have to admit that it's dull mainly because nothing really makes any sense. College students don't dress like that, talk like that, behave that way, or do those things, anymore, and haven't for decades. It really is a lot like The Great Gatsby, except Gatsby was blessedly short by comparison. It also somewhat reminds me of The Talented Mr. Ripley. But, if you think about it, those were both pretentious, too - just pretentious within their time frames. If I didn't have to finish the book for my project, I wouldn't. I'm about 7/8 of the way through and just hoping that the ending gives some kind of meaning to the rest. For me, the mystery has not been the main event of the book, but the continual attempt to set a time period.

SPPL_Violet Mar 17, 2018

Donna Tartt's debut novel is hailed as modern masterpiece. This work of literary fiction may not be suitable for some, though. The story follows a group of young aesthetes studying classical Greek in a small New Hampshire college in the 90's. Their social bond consists of feelings of superiority over their peers, Greek literature, and wild romps in the country that lead to tragedy. None of the main characters are likable, but their story is compelling. Languidly paced, beautifully written. Lovers of language rejoice! This is a book for you. If you're looking for a fast-paced thriller, I wouldn't recommend this one.

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Petruccellius_Rex
Oct 23, 2017

Contrary to many others, I didn't find this book ponderous in the least. Instead, I enjoyed the realistic pace at which events steadily unfolded in retrograde and through recollection, and was completely glued to it. Richard as narrator is our counterpart as the reader: passive at first - more of a voyeur to the group whose relationships with each other and their professor cannot be known prior to our introduction - but soon enough a confidante in the circle left wrestling with what's been revealed. My rating was knocked down a bit because I was disappointed that Julian remains distant for the most part, like we can't really know him (although this does figure in later). I want to know about the students' experience with him up to that point and how his teaching set everything in motion. I just wanted MORE backstory and to know their relationships with the ancient Greek literature and culture that made up the core of their study... To speak to the connection between this work and The Goldfinch, I see it in Richard and Theo, in that they are kind of sophists moving in their adopted worlds; for Richard it is that of his well-off friends, and for Theo it is the world in general following the traumatic event that defined his life from that point.

CRRL_MegRaymond Sep 25, 2017

Six students at an elite New England University for a tight-knit circle. But they have more in common than studying Greek.

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gold1fishes
Aug 04, 2017

I admit I could not stop turning pages and read this book in about 2 days, staying up until 2 AM both times. And, it's kinda a joke, I had to stop and laugh at a lot of parts just because of how absurd these snobby children's sense of superiority is. It's a bit sensational... The characters, suspense, and slow indirect plot revelations are really well done.

d
dirtbag
Aug 04, 2017

I gave her a high rating because this woman writes better than anyone else I can think of, but the book will not appeal to everyone. It is a story about unusual, amoral characters who exist in an amoral setting and who eventually do evil things. I didn't find any of the characters appealing and kept wondering throughout whether Tartt spent a year in research before she started writing, or whether she is just a strange Geek. I googled her and discovered she is the latter.

EvaELPL Jun 28, 2017

A dark, twisting story about murder, Greco-Roman classicism, and boarding school, this story is elevated to a sum greater than its parts by Donna Tartt's impeccable writing. None of the characters here are especially likable, but Tartt writes them so brilliantly you'll be instantly drawn in by them anyway.

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gold1fishes
Aug 04, 2017

actually they're studying ancient Greek, and their social bond is a sense of superiority over the other students as well as local working-class people, and they do horrible things over the course of 1 school year, told from point of view of an incoming freshman who pretends to be rich like them because he admires their inhumane snobbery and is bored and ashamed of his own background.

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booksophie
Jun 01, 2016

Six college friends become more closely connected through their secluded study of Latin, but all they believed to be true about one another and their intentions crumbles when a series of unpredictable events spirals out of control.

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VV12
Aug 19, 2015

VV12 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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VV12
Aug 18, 2015

Other: incest

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rebmartin31
Jun 02, 2016

"Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation."

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