The Secret History

The Secret History

Book - 2004
Average Rating:
Rate this:
53
2
1
 …
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. Yet as Richard was accepted and drawn into their inner circle, he learned a terrifying secret that bound them to one another, a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brough to brutal life and lead to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning.
Publisher: New York : Vintage, 2004.
ISBN: 9781400031702
Branch Call Number: TAR
Characteristics: 559 p.

Opinion

From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment
f
fionajay
Apr 02, 2019

Great thriller that really took me back to university days - not that ever fell through a roof, or killed one of my classmates...twitch. Beautifully realised setting, delicately described relationships and clever - though not too literary- language. A psychology of the effects of murder on all the perpetrators. Ticks all the boxes.

b
Byond
Feb 14, 2019

For me much resistance at first but in the end up late not being able to put it down. Perhaps fueled by emotional energies ready to demonize old money and other elites. The Times review is on the money. (https://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/04/books/books-of-the-times-students-indulging-in-course-of-destruction.html), although there might be at least a redemption light for one character.
The length of the book might point to respect for the author's first work, which this is. Like many other works, the concluding pages update the reader on subsequent developments in the life of the characters. That this extended to some that played very minor roles is indicative of something.
Full of food for thought but I wouldn't go as far as one has here to planning an annual read.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Nov 27, 2018

The Secret History is the gateway into the world of dark academia. It's dark tone and thoughtful, introspective narrative make it a heavy read, but a worthwhile one. It has a fairly slow pace that makes you pay attention to the details to get an understanding of what’s going on. It’s use of rich imagery and poetic descriptions gives the reader a vivid idea of people and places. All of the characters are complex and feel very real in how they behave. The progression of the plot flows in a natural way from one event to the next. The bits of wisdom about life, intelligence, people, love, and beauty that are interwoven throughout the story changed the way I view things in my life. Overall, reading this book felt like a spiritual experience and left me feeling an echo of the story for days. 5/5
- @nickreads of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

d
dukemarmalade
Oct 25, 2018

This book makes me nostalgic for a cold, picturesque college campus I never went to--eternally shrouded in fog. It has a timeless feel for a specific time I can't quite place (I often had to remind myself that it was not set in England earlier in the twenteith century). I want to read it near a fireplace in the dark of winter, every year. The characters are real and gripping. You may be unsure of who to dislike or love, but you will be sure to eat up every last word even though you won't want it to end.

w
waynepl
Oct 22, 2018

A whodunnit that tells you on the very first page who did it...but you'll want to find out why it was done!

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.

j
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.

j
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

p
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.

View All Comments

Summary

Add a Summary
g
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.

b
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.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
v
VV12
Aug 19, 2015

VV12 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Notices

Add Notices
v
VV12
Aug 18, 2015

Other: incest

Quotes

Add a Quote
r
rebmartin31
Jun 02, 2016

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

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Recommendations

Subject Headings

  Loading...

Find it at ORL

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top