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The Secret History (Read Red) [Paperback]

Donna Tartt
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (395 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Jan 2006 Read Red
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: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (26 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141023643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141023649
  • Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 11.3 x 18.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (395 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 349,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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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
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a thought 8 Nov 2009
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is enough in this book to merit a long discussion but with zillions of excellent reviews already on Amazon, here are just a few thoughts instead.

Bizarrely, I can see merit in nearly all responses one star through to five stars. There are some very cogent views and I only really disagree with the most zealous five star reviewers. I have sat on the fence with a three star review. Maybe this is something of a chameleon of a book.

When I saw a dedication at the start to Brett Easton Ellis my attitude to this work resembled a hyena circling a downed wildebeest. It is to Ms Tartt's immense credit that she overcame my preconceptions.

To a potential purchaser I would offer a suggestion that if you have read and liked either The Magus, The Distant Echo or On Beulah Height, then this work may appeal.
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69 of 74 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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35 of 38 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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Richard Papen is a scholarship student at a University in Vermont. There, he meets a group of students of Greek, by whom he is fascinated, and finds himself slowly drawn into their circle. Their leader, Henry, is a brilliant but brooding and distant character, and in their otherworldly existence where the romance and mystique of ancient Greece mingle with the rarified and privileged life at college, the group find themselves party to manslaughter, and then murder.

The book is a study in psychological horror, as the inevitable events flow like a Greek tragedy of their own. We are brought face-to-face with psychopathic behaviour, obesession, addiction, paranoia and deep dark fear, and are forced to ask ourselves the question: how would we respond? What would we do?

The book has an excellent pace, and is beautifully balanced and structured, with suspense and mystery at every turn. It's one that you want to keep reading, and is truly a pleasure. The writing is excellent and the classical references are thrown in with apparent authenticity and without condescension, in just the right measure. At the same time, there is an underlying, very dark humour, that perfectly offsets the pathos that would otherwise be almost unbearable.

This first rate work deserves the highest commendation. Read it.
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87 of 99 people found the following review helpful
I found myself trying to sell the story of The Secret History to a friend of mine in an effort to get him to read it. It went something like this.

ME: Its reeeeeeeally good. Its about this close knit group of college kids who do something really shocking and then do something more shocking to cover the first thing up!

FRIEND: And......?

ME: Um....... that's about it really.

I resorted to reading the cover notes to him and they weren't much better. Y'see, there are only a few shocking moments within the book but they are essential building blocks for later parts of the novel. To tell you, nay even hint as to what the shocking moments are would ruin vast swathes of this novel for you, and shame shame shame shame on other reviewers on these pages for doing so. SHAME!

This novel is beautiful and claustrophobic. Donna Tartt's writing style elegantly and effortlessly guides you through this bizarre world of academia. Her characters are fully rounded and complete and, as you expect from any good novel, you find yourself totally believing in them.

Underneath the subtle cover, bland title and nondescript blurb on the back is a doozer of a story. I recommend this title to anyone.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars what a fantastic read!
A really outstanding book: gripping, well-crafted plot, excellent characterisation of believable characters. Read more
Published 58 minutes ago by jhock1248
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely flawless!
This book is truly incredible. I loved it and, having finished it missed it so much that within a few days I had started reading it all over again! Read more
Published 19 hours ago by Christabelle
4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret history
This is a very interesting Book. It's Not a Thriller in the traditional Sense, but Makes Good Reading. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Mechthild Geisthoff
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 of my alltime favourite books!
This is 1 of my alltime favourite books! Nothing equals it. I studied Greek literature, language and mythology during my studies, and was a bit of an introvert/nerd at the time... Read more
Published 4 days ago by JOACHIME JANS
3.0 out of 5 stars Detailed
realistic and detailed, this somewhat disturbing story warns the reader about the dangers of exclusive friendship, intellectual snobbery and money. true love and tragedy.
Published 5 days ago by liamfernberg
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read
Fantastic thought provoking book which really makes you think. The characters are portrayed fantastically and the book challenges the way you think about right and wrong as you... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Anita
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved every page
I cant believe someone so young could have written it. I like surprises and there were lots. A reuly great novel!
Published 13 days ago by John Doughty
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite sure
Took a long time to get into this book, and having got to the end I don't know if I'd recommend it. It's inner world proved elusive and perhaps that was the point, plus I couldn't... Read more
Published 14 days ago by MBB
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotising!
Unputdownable. The destruction of lives neatly observed. Despicable characters yet you grow to love them. Best read of my year.
Published 21 days ago by Catriona Mitchell-Hynd
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
Problem with reading Secret History after Goldfinch was that I loved Goldfinch so much that i keep comparing!!
Still very good.
Published 22 days ago by croc fan
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