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138 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One in a million
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...
Published on 30 Mar. 2001

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tartt seems to like to use 30 words when one will suffice
This book started well but went downhill very quickly. Tartt seems to like to use 30 words when one will suffice. I Only read the first 250 pages as I simply had enough. Nothing much happened the characters drink, smoke and visit each other's appartments. They often ask where one of the other group members are too. The narrator gets involved with a murder with the...
Published 26 days ago by Cheryl Sussex


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138 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One in a million, 30 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Secret History (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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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a thriller, 8 Jun. 2007
By 
Jonathan Birch (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Secret History (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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, gripping read, 4 Jan. 2005
By 
Stracs "Stracs" (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
I saw The Secret History in the BBC's Big Read list and was intrigued as it was once of the few books I had not heard of. Needless to say it truly deserved its place in that list as it is a fantastic book. Right from the first page I was gripped. The premise if pretty unique - a group of Classics students at a university in America involved in a murder during a type of out of body experience and the consequences of these events. Whist these events may seem far fetched, please stick with he book as it is not the act of the murder or how it comes about that matters so much as its consequences. These consequences are brilliantly described. Classical references are throughout the book but never make the book too highbrow or difficult to read. Instead they add depth to the characters and storylines.
The characters are the strongest elememt of the book, and particularly Henry. Henry is the ring leader of sorts, and is an enigmatic and complex character. He is perfectly drawn by the author, so much so that he almost leaps off the page at you. I found it a pleasure trying to understand this very human character. The other characters are excellent too and all add a unique element of their own to the novel. They all seem like real people and will stay with you after you have read the book in much the same way as the great characters from the classics do.
This novel is an absolute pleasure to read. The murder is reveled on the first page, as are those who committed it, and yet the suspense is ever present throughout the book. The difference between this and other murder novels is that rather than being about the act of murder itself, this book is about the consequences of the act for both victims and perpetraitors. It is an excellent study of guilt and how it can destroy people and relationships. The Secret History is a must read for any dedicated reader out there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tartt seems to like to use 30 words when one will suffice, 25 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
This book started well but went downhill very quickly. Tartt seems to like to use 30 words when one will suffice. I Only read the first 250 pages as I simply had enough. Nothing much happened the characters drink, smoke and visit each other's appartments. They often ask where one of the other group members are too. The narrator gets involved with a murder with the silliest of motivations. Just because a book rambles on and on with words upon unnecessary words doesn't make it a good one, you need a story.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid, compelling, subtle and fascinating, 21 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
Simply wonderful. The picture it paints of a small group of priviledged, charasmatic, yet aloof students, seen through the eyes of outsider Richard is mesmerising. As the narrator draws us into their world, we are first intregued, then fascinated, and finally horrified by them. What grips the reader is not the mystery of their crime (the narrator reveals all in the first few pages) but the interplay of characters that leads them inexorably into murder and the shattering effect that it has on each one of them. Throughout, Ms Tart handles things superbly. The narrative is handled in the 'elegant, ruminative voice of Brideshead Revisited'. The pace is superbly judged, as Ms Tart imperceptibly peels away layer after layer to reveal deeper, darker secrets. But it is not a bitter book - the reader is left sharing the narrator's jaded affection for each of the characters - the bombastic Bunny; the cerebral and aloof Henry, the delecate and enegmatic Camilla . I can't recommend this book highly enough. At over 600 pages, it promises to be overblown. But I guarantee that, like me, when you come to the final page, you'll be sorry there weren't 600 more.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely mind- blowing, 25 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
There are only a few books out of the masses that I have read, that leave me completely speechless.The first experience I had of this was reading "Lord of the Flies" a couple of months ago.If u haven't read it then read it.In a way, I feel that the secret history is very similar as it is, taken to a basic level, an excellent psycological experiment on the human nature taken to it's most primitive form. I have never experienced so many emotions all in one book.It shocked me to tears, it made me laugh but mostly it evoked an overwhelming sense of utter chaos and tragedy and made me desperately sorry for each and every character. I would not say that everyone will enjoy it because this is not true. If you love something that grips you in a way that is terrifying but also requires you to think, you will eat this up in one gulp and treasure it for it is truly a masterpiece! The story is about a group of American students at an elite college.It is told from the point of view of Richard Papen, a newcomer into the classic Greek class.At first he is thrilled to be around a very select group of intelligent friends, but after a while he is sucked into a tangle of obsessive and eventually murderous minds. It is a psycological study of what guilt can do to a person, these kids literally fall apart.The pure horror of it is terrifying. To give you an example of the magic, consider this thought, if you could manage to convince yourself that intentionally planning and carrying out your own friend's murder, was the right thing to do, not only that but the only way out, what does this say about you?? I love this book so much, please read it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obsession and guilt, horror and pathos - told with dark humour, 13 Sept. 2006
By 
Martin Greenwood (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious and curious, 5 Dec. 2006
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
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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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, 19 Dec. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
I can really only repeat what everyone else on this site has said. This book is quite simply stunning. WhaT i found interesting about this book was that I ordered it without any idea of the plot or any expectations. I read the first few pages and was intrigued but not hooked. A few days later I picked it up again and started to get a litle more interested. Gradually, page after page, I was more and more intrigued by the characters, until about 200 pages in I realised I was in the hands of a genius. WHat is brilliant about this is that it is not a jigsaw-puzzle whodunnit where you have to work out the key suspect etc. It is about the darkness in everyone. Most crime novels work on the suspension of disbelief but this novel is so scary because it is written with such detail, character depth and incident that you feel at times as if the writer is describing a true story.I don't see how anyone can fail to be spellbound by this book
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book, 15 May 2007
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
This book is BRILLIANT! I decided to read this book out of pure boredom despite the uninteresting cover. I was immediately riveted to the narrator's story, the characters were believable and despite no knowledge of the Classics it was enjoyable to read. The story moved astonishingly fast and felt like quite a short book (perhaps because I finished it within two days!). If I had to criticize it at all, I would say that some parts are quite depressing (taking drugs,smoking and drinking day after day), hopefully my days at college won't be quite that bad!

All in all, I thought this was a great book, I would recommend this book to anyone, particularly if you are young and have been put off by the books for GCSE's, it has certainly got me back into reading.
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The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Paperback - 1 July 1993)
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