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98 of 108 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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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious and curious
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...
Published on 5 Dec 2006 by Mooji


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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
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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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 (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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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
This review is from: The Secret History (Hardcover)
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. By combining the elements of a thriller with a coming-of-age drama, and adopting an almost European introspection Tartt has made an astonishing debut and achieved one of the literary landmarks of the Nineties, at the same time offering a disturbing allegory of modern day America. This is a novel that has to be read to be believed. Donna Tartt is a literary giant in the making ... What a talent!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 10 April 2007
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
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
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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do yourself a favour - read this book!, 25 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
..."The Secret History" is extraordinary. I have rarely, if ever, been so attached to characters in a novel. As the plot progressed and the characters evolved, my feelings for Charles, Camilla, Henry, Francis and Richard followed an emotional rollercoaster ride quite unlike that provoked by any other novels I've read.
I finished the book last night and I was genuinely sad that my relationship with the characters was over. It will be very hard to find a novel to read after this one. I have heard that the film rights have been sold, which fills me with some anxiety, as any attempted reproduction of the atmosphere in this book is almost bound to fail.
I was astounded to find that there are over 160 customer reviews of "The Secret History" on the website of the American version of Amazon - most of them glowing accounts of a very special read.
Like everyone else who posted a review, I am looking forward to Donna Tartt's second novel. In the meantime, I can recommend another novelist whose works have had almost as strong an effect on me as "The Secret History" - William Boyd. He's written 7 novels, all of which can we warmly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing, 9 July 2014
This review is from: The Secret History (Kindle Edition)
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 eccentric coterie of Ancient Greek students presided over by the urbane and mysterious Julian Morrow.

The working class Papen, drawn into this world of privilege, soon begins trying to ingratiate himself with the group's various members and much of the book is taken up with describing these remarkable people and their perculiarities. The group's members are all brilliant scholars as they have adopted various Anglo-Saxon affectations such as Tweed suits and the reading of Wodehouse novels as typified by the surprisingly appropriately named brother-sister pairing, Charles and Camila.

The book goes on to depict the shattering of this tightly knit group and its effects upon the surviving members of the fraternity. As one might expect this is a very learned and knowing novel drawing on various elements of Greek tragedy to great effect and I found myself, like Richard Papen, fascinated by this odd and obsessional world.
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88 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner! Couldn't put it down! and other cliches as well., 29 Nov 2006
By 
G. Lloyd "gruff76" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
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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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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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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