The Secret History

Tartt, Donna

Book - 2004
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Secret History
Print
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.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Contemporaries, 2004
Edition: 1st Vintage Contemporaries ed
ISBN: 1400031702
9781400031702
Branch Call Number: FICTION TARTT 2004
Characteristics: 559 p. ;,21 cm

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From Library Staff

Join us for the discussion on April 2, 2015. Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discovers a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries.

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 ... Read More »

At the very beginning of this haunting novel, we learn that four classics students at a New England college have killed another member of their exclusive, tight-knit clique. Tartt brilliantly portrays the steps that take this eccentric circle of friends to what seems to be inevitable--murder. Th... Read More »

Truly deserving of the accolade a modern classic, Donna Tartt's novel 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... Read More »


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Feb 02, 2015
  • artemishi rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

The premise of The Secret History sounds great. A big secret, charismatic but maybe truly creepy people, a downward spiral and drama and tension....and I really wish this book was anything as great as it sounds by the premise.

That's not to say the premise is incorrect- it's factually true. But it leaves out the rest of this book, which can be summed up like this: Using bloated narrative, 'tell don't show' techniques and constant over-sharing of information not relevant to plot or character development, Tartt drags out a rehash of I Know What You Did Last Summer until it's painful, with characters so underdeveloped and irritatingly superior that you'll root for a surprise ending where they all die and you can get on with your life. Prepare to waste your time, and wonder why people think this story is anything resembling good, with a plot so slow and awkward, you'll consider throwing it out the window at least a dozen times.

So...yeah, I hated this book. I hated that it could have been great if it dropped about 2/3 of its length, had some actual character development (through actions, reactions, and each one having some semblance of a personality) and portrayed the victim as anything other than a hateful leech. I also hated that the author narrated the audiobook, because she mumbled in a monotone the entire time, sucking any possibility of life out of this already painful story.

I recommend it to insomniacs looking for something to bore them into sleep, people who think large words alone make a good story, and those to whom cardboard cut-outs could be considered "deep characters". Or, to nobody.

Nov 17, 2014
  • Persnickety77 rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Clearly Ms. Tartt is well educated, but everything didn't end up coming together by the end.

Why were these students so obsessed with their professor? We get very little of their interactions with him, so it basically ends up making no sense to the reader that they are willing to go to great lengths to emulate some lifestyle they think he is advocating.

The book was well written and mostly enjoyable, but by the end I was frustrated and a little confused as to what these kids were so obsessed over.

Oct 22, 2014

boring, it dragged along. I am wishing I had quit halfway through.

Oct 18, 2014
  • vulture1 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I have not quite finished the book = have about 100 pages to go. Although I found the concept quite interesting and Tartt's descriptive accounts of how "Bunny" could drive his classmates into a murderous rage,were excellent, there was, I thought, a lot of what I call "filler Also I think the average reader does not speak Greek or Latin, so the author could have provided English translations for the Greek phrases used. To me, this is being a show=off. Overall, a good read.

Aug 04, 2014
  • katmilr rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Boring, slow, & anticlimatic. How is this labeled a thriller? Could the characters be anymore pretentious?

Jul 01, 2014

This book was suspenseful enough to keep my attention, and the author displays an impressive knowledge of classical works. I enjoyed it and would recommend it. I didn't love it because while I mostly thought it was beautifully written, I often found it verbose. The funeral scene almost gratuitously wallowed in discomfort and melodrama. The characters were very cynical. I found them interesting, but I could see why readers would stop caring about them. In all, though, the story kept me turning pages, and the writing and character development were excellent.

Jun 05, 2014
  • 55France rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Self absorbed and intellectual, college students casually become involved with murder without much thought to how serious that might be. A great, strange book. Written from the point of view of an awkward, lonely outsider attempting to join the group.

May 28, 2014
  • KristiShort rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I enjoyed this book very much. Unfortunately, I was introduced to Donna Tartt with The Little Friend, which is pretty slow. So I wasn't very interested in reading this book, but I'm certainly glad I did!

Apr 24, 2014
  • patienceandfortitude rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A strange and fascinating tale of college students in a small Classics program, who become involved in murder. Reminds me of the advantages of no longer being that young.

Mar 24, 2014

Very different from The Goldfinch, but a great work in its own right. The horror creeps up on you. Shades of Gatsby and Lord of the Flies. Great option for a book discussion.

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