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The Secret History [Paperback]

Donna Tartt
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (470 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

1 July 1993

Truly deserving of the accolade Modern Classic, Donna Tartt's cult bestseller The Secret History is a remarkable achievement - both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful.

'A haunting, compelling and brilliant piece of fiction' The Times

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

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 for ever.

'Enthralling . . . image the plot of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment crossed with the story of Euripides' Bacchae set against the backdrop of Bret Easton Ellis's The Rules of Attraction . . . forceful, cerebral and impeccably controlled . . . ferociously well-paced . . . remarkably powerful' The New York Times

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

Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History and The Little Friend, which have been translated into thirty languages, and The Goldfinch.

Frequently Bought Together

The Secret History + The Little Friend + The Goldfinch
Price For All Three: 13.65

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  • The Little Friend 5.03
  • The Goldfinch 3.59

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: 2.7 x 11 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (470 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 266 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


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
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a thriller 8 Jun 2007
By Jonathan Birch VINE VOICE
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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108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One in a million 30 Mar 2001
By A Customer
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 A Customer
Most books saddled by the acclaim of the above label are generally tedious and leave you wishing you could reclaim those lost hours of your life spent ploughing through them. This is not one of them. I am surprised at the number of reviewers labelling the book dull; its pace is indeed langorous but this luxury seems a deliberate demarcation of the students' world from the modern, a point that is often stressed, no more so in the narrator's intrusion from California into the classical. I devoured this book and have just read it for the third time, an interesting exercise as on this occasion I was not as gripped by the dense lush prose as by the expert characterisation, which becomes less opaque on a second (plus) reading. This is a startling debut about moral weakness, self-deception, the ennui of post-adolescent college life and the classical world. I agree that the mysterious bacchanial should have been better explored but those expecting a tense, taut thriller should look elsewhere as this is not it. and do not look for a repetition of this dark,mournful world in The Little Friend, which in no way stands beside its predecessor.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murderous misdeeds in American academia 28 Feb 2001
By A Customer
From the outside looking in present day America appears obsessed with little more than pop culture, gun culture and the prime time bleatings of Oprah and Jerry; but a vastly different nation emerges from the pages of this extraordinary novel, focusing on a mysterious class of Greek language students whose cerebral pursuits turn distinctly nasty. The narrative is provided by Richard, a native of California who transfers to Hampden College on the East coast in an attempt to bury his small town past of TV dinners and gas stations. The students at Hampden are a different breed; moneyed offspring of the rich and powerful, and with little money and no friends he enrolls in the Greek class, hiding his social inadequacies behind a semi-fictitious identity. He becomes a drinking pal of the gregarious Bunny, a confidant to effeminate Francis and a trusted friend of the beautiful twins, Charles and Camilla. But it is Henry who makes the biggest impression upon him, with his towering intellect and ruthless pragmatism, and when Richard stumbles upon a thinly veiled secret of Henry's he delves deeper into the illicit twilight world of his new friends. As realisation dawns on him of his friend's murderous deeds he is forced to choose between communal loyalty and revealing to the police his knowledge of their crimes. His decision to remain silent contrasts starkly with that of a fellow classmate whose threatened betrayal results in the group's ultimate destruction, bringing with it fatal consequences. The Secret History is a surreal exploration of privileged youth educated beyond its means and lacking the moral strength or incentive to rein in its most primal desires. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars lengthy, exhaustive, but not without the occasional dazzle
Tartt's prose is excellent but the narrative is weak. So many gems in her use of words. However it makes no sense that the plot twist that kicks off all the chaos (won't spoil it... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Legacy Russell
2.0 out of 5 stars It's all Greek to me!
I purchased the Secret History as a result of being blown away by the Goldfinch by the same author. Sadly, had I not read anything else by Tartt I think I'd have given up halfway... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Bo Fiddley
3.0 out of 5 stars Loved the first half
Loved the first half. The second half dragged! Not as good as The Goldfinch (which was also too long IMO)
Published 5 days ago by Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautifully written and loved it from start to finish
Published 5 days ago by Mrs A G Banks
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect mix of Lord of the Flies, What I loved and Dead Poets'...
I loved this book! I found Tart's writing eloquent and exciting. Tart's use of language, which if used by a less gifted author could seem pretentious, fit perfectly with the... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Book Worm
1.0 out of 5 stars Have to say I don't normally give bad reviews but this book was too...
Have to say I don't normally give bad reviews but this book was too long, too boring & characters I really didn't care about. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow burn describing events leading to a climax revealed near the...
Donna Tartt is a great story teller. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, both as the audiobook (read by the author) and the text version. Read more
Published 6 days ago by The Viscount
4.0 out of 5 stars I'd recommend it
I liked it, but not as much as 'The Goldfinch'. She is a very talented writer who creates complex characters you can relate to and yet still be surprised by.
Published 8 days ago by Bathsheba Everdene
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing characters
Donna Tartt had somehow passed me by. However, when The Goldfinch hit the stands, I thought I should catch up by reading The Secret History. Read more
Published 9 days ago by A. W. Skinner
2.0 out of 5 stars not good as sold
a tatty but readable copy for the money, not good as sold.
Published 11 days ago by Nikki
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