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The Secret History (Penguin Celebrations) [Paperback]

Donna Tartt
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (439 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Sep 2007 Penguin Celebrations
A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them. And soon they enter a terrifying heart of darkness from which they may never return …

Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141035218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141035215
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 13.1 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (439 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 278,873 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) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
98 of 108 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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10 of 11 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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31 of 35 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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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 10 April 2007
A totally engrossing read - fairly romps along, so that despite its length the pacing, the well drawn characters and their unspeakable dilemmas make it one of those rare books that keep you up late determined to read to the end. The sense of claustrophobic evil and the disintegration of a group of friends drunk on their own cleverness is threaded throughout with classic Greek references. This display of erudition is dazzling to a non classics scholar such as myself, and only enhances the enjoyment.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious and curious 5 Dec 2006
By Mooji
This is a very entertaining story of a group of "haves" and a young man who is clearly a "have not". He is seduced by the idea of being in this new group, and his desperation to be part of them leads him to be complicit in a secret that will eventually destroy them.

This could so easily be a murder/mystery novel but it's much, much more than that. The characters, although one dimensional at times, work well as a collective and the main character is sympathetic and believable.

There is something about the way this is written though, that I just can't put my finger on. Almost like the author is patting herself on the back for being so intelligent and encorporating so much greek into her novel. Still, I have read this several times and will read it again.

I also suggest Continuum Contemporaries series: Donna Tartt's "The Secret History": A Reader's Guide for those that want to delve deeper.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Greek drama by contemporary author Donna Tarrt
I am totallly absorbere by this very unusual story being a historian the background of Greek and Latin is especially fascinating highly recommended by a fascinating storyteller... Read more
Published 4 days ago by ingrid Birkeland
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb book - brilliant characterisation and wonderful dark story telling.
Published 4 days ago by Mrs CF Haddon
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling study of guilt
This novel was even more engrossing than 'The Goldfinch'. The futures of all the major protagonists are profoundly affected by what they do to hide their horrible actions. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Marge
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent novel. Had been recommended by some (French) friends ...
Excellent novel. Had been recommended by some (French) friends for years and was not disappointed when I finally read it. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Goatkeeper
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping book with a simple premise, but the ...
A gripping book with a simple premise, but the way it's written is absolutely magical. Truth be told, I am highly attracted to one of the main ccharacters, Henry!
Published 9 days ago by Medina Azaldin
3.0 out of 5 stars too wordy, self indulgent
Starts well, starts intriguingly, but too many long wordy passages. Interest in and sympathy for the protagonists evaporates with their incessant selfishness and OMG the drinking,... Read more
Published 13 days ago by insomniac
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing
The Secret History is the story of a conspicuous outsider, Richard Papen, who gains entry to an exclusive New England college and finds himself as a member of a strange and... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Supportyourlocallibrary
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but just too long
Donna Tartt's stories are so beautifully intricate, and the Secret History is no exception. I do wish she'd be more concise- there are many points where the story goes on for what... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Lara Belle Wyatt
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Could not put this book down. Personalisation of characters is brilliant, the author draws you in until you feel like part of the group of friends. Fantastic read. Read more
Published 16 days ago by saleb
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked this book
I really enjoyed the writing style and got hooked on the story. I was a few hundred pages in before I realized that nearly all the characters were pretty shallow worthless people. Read more
Published 20 days ago by sophietrophy
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