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Paperback The Secret History Book

ISBN: 0449911519

ISBN13: 9780449911518

The Secret History

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good*

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Book Overview

"Powerful...Enthrallling...A ferociously well-paced entertainment." THE NEW YORK TIMES Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at 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...

Customer Reviews

9 ratings

Obsessive Loser writes about Murder

All of the characters are not only horrible people but self absorbed with zero redeeming qualities; the plot revolves around their various roles in the death of a classmate at an exclusive New England school. Being a native of Massachusetts I tried to recall people & places that might fit into this scenario & felt it is all wildly improbable. I am only finishing it because my book club chose it & we had somewhat liked The Goldfinch. I do not really understand this author's affinity for severe alcohol & drug abuse in her books & will likely avoid reading other books by her. If you like dark, brooding characters who get themselves into bad situations, usually as a result of such addled brains from drugs, then you would love this book.

wonderfully written

I loved this book so so much. There were definitely parts of it I didn’t understand (I.e. Greek references, Latin phrases, etc.) But my lack of knowledge on different subjects they touch on, only makes me want to learn more. The thing I love most about this book, is that despite the knowledge that the narrator is unreliable, you want so desperately to believe everything he’s saying. Tartt has a way of making them so relatable and so likable. Even with their many flaws, you find something wonderful to love about each of them anyway. The psychological aspect of this story is so well constructed and has so many layers, it’s a true thrill to unpack each piece.

This is another masterpiece.

Hard to keep track of so many characters, but well worth it. Such an engrossing story!


Stumbled across this book on some "books you must read" list and all I can say is, "WOW!." Loved the story line, and loved that it kept me on my toes. It was enthralling and really unlike any book I'd picked up before. If I can get through my long list of books on my reading list, I would love to come back and reread! I just purchased "Goldfinch," so I'm hopeful that is excellent as well.

Better Than The Goldfinch

When I read The Goldfinch last year I was introduced to the great writing of Donna Tartt. While the book was a good read it wasn’t one I was completely enthralled with. There were others with the same sentiment and mentioned how her earlier work The Secret History was her best book. So of course, I had to read the book and see for myself. Add me to that group who loved The Secret History. In The Goldfinch, Tartt’s writing was what kept me engaged into the book while the story itself as much. In The Secret History, both the writing, story and characters combined to create an engrossing and compelling story that had some of that tragic Greek element that our intrepid cast were studying about. The thing about this book was how insidious it was in its effectiveness. You aren’t really aware of how engrossed you are into the book until you find yourself a quarter into the book. There’s just something about the way in Tartt’s writing that makes not only the characters themselves, but every other details interesting. Considering that you know what happens (essentially the murder of Bunny), Tartt’s writing still managed to create an atmosphere of mystery in terms of the journey Richard and the group took to get to that point, in addition to the consequences of their action. You don’t feel as if you lost something in knowing from the beginning what the essential point in (actually if you really want to get technical there are several turning points in Richard’s story) the story is. Tartt’s writing enables you to get immersed in the story, getting to know Richard, the group of students he gets involved in, the preceding events leading up to the murder and in turn caring about how that action (or in-action in some of their cases) affected them. Along with the writing, Tartt created some very compelling and complicated characters. Each one, from Richard to Henry to Bunny, the twins and Francis, they each are both what they seem and yet aren’t. A majority of the story is about secrets and it seems no one is immune to that. They each have their own, giving them an air of mystery that you may never fully understand. But that’s part of their charm and provides the intrigue into the story. So when the buildup to the murder and resulting consequences occur, you’re just compelled in reading how each character is affected and how they deal with it. While I have managed to say what it is about the book I loved, it never truly illustrate why it is I loved it. Just saying that the book is about the loss of innocence, secrets, unrequited love with a tone of a Greek tragedy doesn’t adequately describe how great the story is. Saying how good the writing is may not be enough either. This is a book that has to be read and experienced to understand what I’m trying to say. The Goldfinch was a good read, but I will have to agree with the masses in saying the The Secret History was better.

Mesmerizing, addictive, and utterly brilliant

The Secret History is a gripping, moving, thoroughly riveting novel that affected me as much as any book I have ever read. Even after finishing it-especially after finishing it-the story has continued to consume my mind. I fall asleep thinking about it, and I wake up thinking about it. The characters (Richard, Henry, Francis, Charles, Camilla, Julian, and, of course, Bunny) are fascinating, mysterious, oddly charming, and-but for lack of flesh-completely real to me. Despite their faults, their fatal flaws, and their sins, I am mesmerized by them all. I want to know them, talk to them, be one of them. Each one of the principal players in this drama will remain in my memory forever, especially Camilla-for some reason, she haunts me; just the thought of her makes me tingle and feel more alive.You might think that identifying a murder victim and his murderers at the very beginning of a novel, particularly a long novel such as this, would make for a less than suspenseful read. Not when Donna Tartt is telling the story. This thriller is jam-packed with intensity and suspense from start to finish. I cannot point to any single section where the story got bogged down or seemed drawn-out. The final forty pages were incredible because I really had no idea how things would play out. Several times, I had to literally put the book down momentarily to catch my breath and let the shocking effects of what I just read reverberate through my being. In a way, I am surprised at the popularity of this book. I like to consider myself a scholar, and I find the idea of completely subsuming oneself in the world of the ancients-wallowing in the classics, I like to call it-highly appealing. This cadre of Greek scholars, indulged by their rarified, half-man, half-deity professor, lived in a world of their very own-communicating in ancient Greek, going about their lives in a Gothic environment, interacting with their fellow students yet never thinking of them as their equal or even as completely real. I daresay that few besides myself find such a way of life appealing, and that is why I marvel to some degree at the success of this novel. This basically reinforces the obvious fact that Tartt is an incredibly gifted writer. I, right along with the narrator Richard, became immediately captivated by these people and yearned to enter their world-despite the fact that they all drank and smoked to a degree unimaginable even to Hemingway, were no strangers to drugs, and resorted, ultimately, to murder one of their own. The inscrutable Henry, brooding over this entire narrative, had me entirely in his grip...At the very root of this novel is a desire to somehow not think about anything, to achieve a transcendental moment of utter freedom. It is this cherished desire that led our cadre of scholars out into the woods in an attempt to summon Dionysus by recreating a real, ancient Greek bacchanalian ceremony. The reader never learns everything about what happened that

Will Always Be on My All-time Favorite List

I read this book almost ten years ago and it still resonates a feeling of having read a book that was satisfying. The elements of suspense, literature, classicism, college life, and growing pains combined for a fulfilling literary experience. Readers got a glimpse of the privileged life of America's "elite" and how one young man longed to belong. He didn't realize that the games he played would involve murder and deception. I loved the concept of the Classics theme. I plan on re-reading this book and will definitely order the new one.

A Dark Page Turner

I find it ironic that this book which was so inpired by the classics was the one to make me cast away my copies of Milton, Chaucer and even Balzac for more contemporary fiction. In a world taken over by Mary Higgins Clark and Danielle Steele, it is nice to know that there is something else out there. In contrast to many of the reviews I have read, I didn't feel that the characters were unlikeable. I admired Henry for his intelligence and discipline, I was surprised by his supposed sacrifice for Charles' sake which did give his character more depth. From the moment I started reading, I couldn't put it down. I found that I was able to identify with all of these characters, Richard for his insecurities with his former life, Bunny for his tendency to say the wrong thing without realizing or caring, Francis for so badly desiring something he could not have, Charles for his all consuming jealousy, Henry for his stubborness and Camilla for her imagined fears. It was my ability to identify with all of the characters that made me so interested in the story. So few books are able to capture my interest for 500+ pages. "The Secret History" was beautifully written. Tartt was able to accuratly put into words the picture of a small New England town. It is true that she often added details, not quite subplots, to the story that didn't have much to do with the main plot, but that is part of the beauty of her writing. It makes for a more realistic story with these added details. Life is generally random, unrelated events all woven together contributing to some greater purpose, though not always directly. Stories that can be wrapped up nicely under a big red bow, with every part contributing to the last page may be easier to read,and they may be shorter, but not that realistic, or even that interesting.

great book; God, I hope they don't ruin it with a movie

There are a number of reasons that The Secret History has been one of my favorite leisure-reading selections for several years (and I have to admit that I re-read it periodically, typically devouring it in 2 or 3 nights). I think Donna Tartt's greatest gift lies in her ability to create a story that has the suspense and sales appeal of a mainstream bestseller AND a tremendous richness of texture, with a bit of philosophical and intellectual weight thrown in for good measure (granted, the book's not as deep as some people claim it is, but compared to the flimflam put out by authors like Robert Jordan or Tom Clancy or John Grisham, it's practically a college curriculum wrapped up into a single volume!). Ms. Tartt can create a mood and evoke a setting like no other popular writer I can think of, and I find her descriptive powers, her dialogue, and her attention to detail to be irresistible. I went to college in the late '80s, and I was a lower-middle-class kid from central Texas who wound up in an Ivy-league institution that, although it wasn't nearly as insular or uniformly snobbish as "Hampden"/Bennington College, had its fair share of decadent preppies. So to me, at least, a lot of Richard Papen's insecurities and anxieties ring true-to-life. One last note: to readers who were bored or put off by the references to Greek, Latin, French, and English literature, I would suggest that, rather than condemn Ms. Tartt for being pretentious or pedantic, we be excited that someone has the daring and the ability to create a novel that has a high idea-to-page ratio AND supports an exciting, appealing story. If you don't understand an allusion, look it up and learn something new! [I'm a college instructor myself, so pardon a bit of pedantry on my part... :-) !]

The Secret History Mentions in Our Blog

The Secret History in Autumn Vibes: 12 Moody Novels for Fall
Autumn Vibes: 12 Moody Novels for Fall
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 23, 2021

From cozy to creepy, we've assembled a fall reading list that's perfect for curling up under a wooly blanket with a mug of hot tea in your hand. Hopefully there's something here that satisfies your autumnal mood.

The Secret History in Cozy Escapes to Enjoy All Autumn Long
Cozy Escapes to Enjoy All Autumn Long
Published by Karen DeGroot Carter • October 01, 2020
Celebrate and immerse yourself in fall with these books and movies set during the season of pumpkin-spice.
The Secret History in Welcome to the 2020s!
Welcome to the 2020s!
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • January 01, 2020

Happy New Decade! We are embarking on a brand-new era. It may seem a bit arbitrary, but we humans like to retrospectively infuse these tidy ten-year periods with distinct personalities. Here we review the character of the last five decades and make some guesses about how the 2020s will be remembered.

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