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The Secret History Paperback – 1 Jul 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 660 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (1 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804111359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140167771
  • ASIN: 0140167773
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (517 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014.

Product Description

Review

A haunting, compelling and brilliant piece of fiction (The Times)

So irresistible and seductive it's almost a guilty pleasure (Guardian)

Donna Tartt is an amazingly good writer. She's dense, she's allusive. She's a gorgeous storyteller (Stephen King)

Takes my breath away (Ruth Rendell)

Brilliant and compulsive (Evening Standard)

A huge, mesmerizing, galloping read (Vanity Fair)

A page-turner in the true sense (Independent)

Brilliant (Sunday Times)

From the Back Cover

"A beautifully written story, well-told, funny, sad, scary, and impossible to leave alone until I finished. . . . What a debut!" --John Grisham

"Powerful . . . Enthralling . . . A ferociously well-paced entertainment." --The New York Times

"An accomplished psychological thriller . . . Absolutely chilling . . . Tartt has a stunning command of the lyrical." -- The Village Voice

"A smart, craftsman-like, viscerally compelling novel." --Time

"A thinking-person's thriller . . . Think Lord of the Flies, then The Rules of Attraction. . . . The Secret History combines a bit of both--the unmistakable whiff of evil from William Golding's classic and the mad recklessness of priviledged youth from Bret Easton Ellis's novel of the '80s. . . . As stony and chilling as any Greek tragedian ever plumbed." --New York Newsday

"Tartt's voice is unlike that of any of her contemporaries. Her beautiful language, intricate plotting, fascinating characters, and intellectual energy make her debut by far the most interesting work yet from her generation." --The Boston Globe

"A long tale of friendship, arrogance, and murder knit together with the finesse that many writers will never have . . . Her writing bewitches us . . . The Secret History is a wonderfully beguiling book, a journey backward to the fierce and heady friendships of our school days, when all of us believed in our power to conjure up divinity and to be forgiven any sin." --The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The great pleasure of the novel is the wonderful complexity and the remarkable skill with which this first novelist spins the tale. And a gruesome tale it is. . . . A great, dense, disturbing story, wonderfully told." --Cosmopolitan

"The Secret History
implicates the reader in a conspiracy which begins in bucolic enchantment and ends exactly where it must--though a less gifted or fearless writer would never have been able to imagine such a rich skein of consequence. Donna Tartt has written a mesmerizing and powerful novel." --Jay McInerney

"Donna Tartt has invested this simple and suspenseful plot with a considerable amount of atmosphere and philosophical significance. . . . She's a very good writer indeed." --The Washington Post Book World

"A glorious achievement . . . The Secret History is a grand read--an artful blend of intelligence, entertainment, and suspense that quickens the pulse." --The Virginian Pilot & Ledger-Star

"Beautifully written, suspenseful from start to finish." --Vogue

"One of the best American college novels to come along since John Knowles's A Seperate Peace. . . . Immensely entertaining." --Houston Chronicle

"Donna Tartt is clearly a gifted writer. . . . The cadence of her sentences, the authority with which she shaped 500-plus pages of an erudite page-turner indicate she has the ability to leave her literary contemporaries standing in the road. . . . The decision to murder has about it the inevitability of classical Greek tragedy." --The Miami Herald

"Donna Tartt has a real shot at becoming her generation's Edgar Allan Poe. . . . The Secret History pulses like a telltale heart on steroids." --Glamour

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw,' that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tom Doyle on 1 Sep 2014
Format: Paperback
With so much fuss in the press about her recent novel Goldfinch, I picked up a copy of The Secret History to read Tartt's works in order (I'd missed it the first time round in 1992).

This is a strange book that has a hypnotic feel with the protagonist Richard slowly falling under the spell of the weird goings-on of the peculiar group of university classics students at its centre. What they get up to is so unbelievable and pointless that it's hard to get into the plot. Tartt uses shock tactics to maintain 'suspense', though you know where things are going from the flash-forward opening. So it's a thriller of sorts, but with most of the thrills dished out ahead of time. I found it an odd in-between type of book: part American novel, part crime novel, part satire, part comedy. There's plenty of humour mixed in, especially Bunny's antics and the various drug and booze fuelled tales of campus life.

For me, the satire stood out: the insight into a wealthy middle-class north-eastern university where debauchery and amorality pervades. These are America's 'elite' - with the outsider protagonist acting as a counterpoint, though he is soon sucked in. Yet they shun their privilege and their debased behaviour runs riot; parents either knowing little of what goes on or turning a blind eye. And some of the parents, such as Bunny's mother with her cabinet full of dodgy pills, show that the students have the genes for letting it all hang out.

There's not really a likeable character. There's a bit of too much banging on about the classics. And there's no way they would have got away with it. But the writing is so concise and dialogue so well done that you're carried along the 600 odd pages (could have been shorter).
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Birch VINE VOICE on 8 Jun 2007
Format: Paperback
That's what you really need to know about this one. It's a thriller. Seemingly like many people I got tricked by the rather arty Penguin covers into thinking this was a "modern classic" exploring themes of evil and human nature. It's not. Arguably, it tries to turn conventional morality on its head by persuading us that we can all sympathise and empathise with murderers, but it doesn't achieve this - the plot is too far-fetched for any serious literary pretensions. I wasn't persuaded and I didn't see relevance to my own life. If you want to call it a "classic" in the conventional sense (i.e. something that goes on shelves near Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Dickens) you must be pretty cynical about the state of modern literature. There are much better candidates out there.

That aside, it's a good thriller. If, like me, you found the Da Vinci Code unreadable, you'll have a much better time with this. It has suspenseful prose absolutely nailed. As it turns out, the book doesn't really have much action in it, but somehow I thought some dramatic twist was about to happen at the turn of every page. It really is that clever. All the irrelevant little detours seem loaded with tension, as the slowly dawning realisation ("How evil are these guys?") starts to cast a long shadow over the narrative.

In short: Nice thriller, great fun, shame about the false advertising.
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116 of 127 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Mar 2001
Format: Paperback
If I could take only one single book to the notorious island it would be The Secret History.
Originally I bought it only because a friend of mine had recommended it to me about a dozen times and kept asking me whether I had finally read it myself. Well. I was into 19th century classics at the time and really really really didn't feel like reading a novel by an unknown contemporary author. And an American one as well! So I bought and started reading it only to avoid further awkward quesions.
What can I say? I truly love books and have read hundreds. But none, literally NONE, ever made me feel the way The Secret History did and still does. It's the most fascinating and gripping book I've ever had the honour to read. The characters are fascinatingly mysterious; the plot the most interesting one I can think of; the setting great; and the language simply wonderful.
The bad thing about having read The Secret History (10 times? 11?) is that now I will always be longing for another one like it. The Secret History is THE book.
I know that other readers have experienced the same. Many of them keep asking about a new novel by Donna Tartt. I don't. I don't really want her to write another one, and I don't think she will. Every serious author wants their new novel to be just a little bit better than the last one. And let's face it: Donna Tartt will never achieve that because she's already written the perfect novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Worthington on 29 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is just brilliant. I don't really read that much because I've never really found books that would take to me to different worlds, but something like "A Secret History" is what I've always wanted, it's funny, sad and scary, and it's a real page-turner,it keeps you guessing and there's always twists that you keep wanting to find out. It's quite long but you don't even notice how much you've read..and the in-depth descriptions are really worth it to get to know everything. Tartt is fantastic, her phrases and all her descriptions are so realistic, she pinpoints Richard's views, his memories, ones that are clearer than others, they're all so perfect that you'd think she's lived it herself. You should definitely read this book, it's a longun but it's worth it! Now my challenge is to find something to fill the hole!! I'd also highly recommend reading Tino Georgiou's masterpiece--The Fates--if you missed it.
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