The Secret History

Paperback | April 13, 2004

byDonna Tartt

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Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, established herself as a major talent with The Secret History, which has become a contemporary classic.

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 forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

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From the Publisher

Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, established herself as a major talent with The Secret History, which has become a contemporary classic.Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way ...

From the Jacket

Truly deserving of the accolade a modern classic, Donna Tartt's novel is a remarkable achievement--both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful. 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 awa...

Donna Tartt won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent Novel. The Goldfinch Her novelsl The Secret History and The Little Friend were also international bestsellers. She was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College.

other books by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch: A Novel (pulitzer Prize For Fiction)
The Goldfinch: A Novel (pulitzer Prize For Fiction)

Paperback|Apr 7 2015

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The Little Friend
The Little Friend

Paperback|Oct 28 2003

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Le maître des illusions
Le maître des illusions

Paperback|Aug 1 2012


see all books by Donna Tartt
Format:PaperbackDimensions:576 pages, 8 × 5.1 × 0.9 inPublished:April 13, 2004Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1400031702

ISBN - 13:9781400031702

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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not worth buying I had heard a lot of great things about this book from other people so I thought it would be a great read. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I had such a hard time finishing the book and had to force myself to read it all. The characters were not relatable at all. I didn't care for the main character at all. All the characters of this book are pretentious pricks.
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The College Club This was the second Donna Tartt book I read in succession. In reading three of her books, her method is the same every time. An introduction with an issue, and the rest of the book, gives the story resolution. After three books, this method is predictable. It was a good read, it had that kept me reading for more draw, but it did not knock my socks off. Sadly. If you are a Donna Tartt fan, reading her stories are not wasted read time.
Date published: 2016-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LIT my favorite book to date. nothing else i've ever read amounts to this.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from big disappointment I was really disappointed with this book, I actually had to struggle to get through it, can not relate to any of the characters, it's like watching a long movie just trying to get to the end of it. Certainly would not want to read anything of Donna Tartt, can not understand all the good reviews here.
Date published: 2015-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intriguing Plot, Memorable Characters The Secret History's rich characters, sharp plotting, and beautiful writing combine to make it my favourite book. Henry is one of the most memorable, interestingly developed characters I've ever read - Henry and Lucky Strikes are forever mixed in my mind. Richard is relatable as a reader proxy. The bacchanal scene is unforgettable. I reread this book over and over, and find new things to love about it every time.
Date published: 2014-11-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A stunning read I started reading this book on the advisement of reviewers from this website. The story itself is dark and disturbingly arousing because it takes you to a place that is so removed from stagnant, middle class life. Part Gatsby, part Dead Poet's Society and reprehensible narcissism all woven together with exquisite composition.
Date published: 2014-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Beauty is in The Tragedy Wow. If there was one word to describe my feelings after turning the last page over, it would be "wow". Donna Tartt has seamlessly created a group of characters so vivid and lifelike that they pull you into their inner circle and make you feel like you are listening in on their private dramas. The beautiful settings and extravagant descriptions are really of no comparison.. It may be dreary all of the time but the way it's described is beyond your dreams. Tragedy may be the name of the game in The Secret History, and though this "whydunit" makes you question all of your morals, you are still left with a deep longing compassion for all of its characters. Donna Tartt pulls you in and doesn't let you go until the final page... A beautifully tragic love note to the classic Greek tragedies of the past. Definitely going on my list of favourites!
Date published: 2014-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Considered A Modern Classic for a VERY Good Reason! This is my first of Donna Tartt's works, and it will NOT be the last. This book is exceptional!  Captivating from the opening pages until the very end, this book is perhaps one of the most calculated and careful works I have ever read. I felt like I knew the characters, had stepped foot on the collage campus in which the book is set, had overheard their whispers in the Commons areas. I read this book very slowly, and often out loud because the prose was so beautiful.  Donna Tartt has found a fan in me and I greatly look forward to reading both The Little Friend and The Goldfinch!  Highly recommend :).
Date published: 2014-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Beauty is in The Tragedy This is a book to make you think. Surprisingly I could not put it down and looked forward to finding out what the characters were doing. It is a story that makes you think with characters that are believable. It addresses the impacts of peer group pressure, depression and wealth which can easily be related to the current time. I highly enjoyed this read and can't wait to read more by Donna Tartt.
Date published: 2014-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Damn. This book drew me in from page one and I am at a loss for words to describe how good it is. I'm speechless. Damn.
Date published: 2013-10-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Secret History by Donna Tart Long, beautifully written, melancholic and poignant.
Date published: 2013-02-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An original, fantastical story Tartt is such a clever writer, I can't say enough about her skill. This book, which mirrors the story-telling styles of Greek tragedy, is full of deeply disturbed, yet somehow likeable, characters. The reader is so gradually brought into their Secret History, that by the time you realize how abhorrant they are, you have developed a real true liking for them. The beauty of this, of course, is that the reader is told of their crime in the first few pages ... Compelling reading, excellent writing, and suspenseful storytelling make this an excellent novel.
Date published: 2009-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Psychological Read I wasn't sure what to expect from this book...but i ended up loving it. The darkness of it, the slightly British tinge to it, the eloquent way the words flowed...all made for fast reading. Richard, the narrator, tells the tale of how he and five others "reinvent" themselves to be these dark and foreboding characters, as though they stepped right out of some dry, British novel, filled with Irish whiskey, smokey rooms, and nights spent studying the meaning of all things Greek. This was a strong psychological read that kept me up late at night.
Date published: 2009-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engrossing! Donna Tartt's first book. She is a very good writer and leads up to revelations slowly. It began kind of slow but the details of the characters made them very real. The character, Henry, has to be one of the most intereting characters I have read of. I am looking forward to reading Donna's next book when it costs about $5.
Date published: 2008-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Creepy Thriller This is a thriller that creeps up on you before you know it. It's got atmosphere, a camaraderie of amoral characters, some pretty good descriptions of a Vermont setting and reckless fun and games that end in more than tears. The premise is very simple though a little outlandish. However, Tartt does a good job weaving a spell that traps the reader just as the main character is trapped. Not for those who like their gore heavy handed but for those who like a room full of shadows and their mysteries dark around the edges. It is a bit long, though--it feels like the author could go on and on and on, and she sometimes does, but I recommend this book as summer page turner and suspenseful psychological thriller. It's also creepy how Tartt gets the reader to go along with a story this bizarre. And yet. And yet.
Date published: 2006-08-05

Extra Content

Bookclub Guide

1. Richard states that he ended up at Hampden College by a “trick of fate.” What do you think of this statement? Do you believe in fate?2. When discussing Bacchae and the Dionysiac ritual with his students Julian states, “We don’t like to admit it, but the idea of losing control is one that fascinates controlled people such as ourselves more than almost anything. All truly civilized people--the ancients no less than us--have civilized themselves through the willful repression of the old, animal self” (p. 38). What is your opinion of this theory? Are we all attracted to that which is forbidden? Do we all secretly wish we could let ourselves go and act on our animal instincts? Is it true that “beauty is terror”?3. “I suppose there is a certain crucial interval in everyone’s life when character is fixed forever: for me, it was that first fall term spent at Hampden” (p. 80). Did you have such a crucial interval in your life? What/when was it?4. In the idyllic beginning it is easy to see why Richard is drawn to the group of Greek scholars. It is only after they begin to unravel that we see the sinister side of each of the characters. Do you think any one of the characters possesses true evil? Is there such a thing as true evil, or is there something redeeming in everyone’s character?5. In the beginning of the novel, Bunny’s behavior is at times endearing and at others maddening. What was your initial opinion of Bunny? Does it change as the story develops?6. At times Bunny, with his selfish behavior, seems devoid of a conscience, yet he is the most disturbed by the murder of the farmer. Is he more upset because he was left out of the group or because he feels what happened is wrong?7. Henry says to Richard, “My life, for the most part, has been very stale and colorless. Dead, I mean. The world has always been an empty place to me. I was incapable of enjoying even the simplest things. I felt dead in everything I did. . . . But then it changed . . . The night I killed that man” (p. 463). How does Henry’s reaction compare to that of the others involved in the murder(s)? Do you believe he feels remorse for what he has done?8. Discuss the significance of the scene in which Henry wipes his muddy hand across his shirt after throwing dirt onto Bunny’s coffin at the funeral (p. 395).9. List some of the signs that foreshadowed the dark turn of events. Would you have seen all the signs that Richard initially misses? Or do you believe Richard knew all along and just refused to see the truth?10. Would you have stuck by the group after learning their dark secret?11. The author states that many people didn’t sympathize with Richard. Did you find him a sympathetic character?12. What do you make of Richard’s unrequited love for Camilla? Do you feel that she loved him in return? Or did she use his love for her as a tool to manipulate him?13. Do you feel the others used Richard as a pawn? If so, how?14. What do you feel is the significance of Julian’s toast “Live forever” (p. 86)?15. The author mentions a quote supposedly made by George Orwell regarding Julian: “Upon meeting Julian Morrow, one has the impression that he is a man of extraordinary sympathy and warmth. But what you call his ‘Asiatic Serenity’ is, I think, a mask for great coldness” (p. 480). What is your opinion of Julian?16. Do you think that Julian feels he is somewhat responsible for the murder of Bunny? Is that why he doesn’t turn the group in when he discovers the truth from Bunny’s letter?17. What causes Julian to flee? Is it because of disappointment in his young protegees or in himself?18. While the inner circle of characters (Richard, Charles, Camilla, Henry, Francis, and the ill-fated Bunny) are the center of this tale, those on the periphery are equally important in their own ways (Judy Poovey, Cloke Rayburn, Marion, and so on). Discuss the roles of these characters.19. The rights for The Secret History were initially purchased by director/producer/screenwriter Alan J. Paluka (All The President’sMen, The Pelican Brief), and they are currently with director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars). What are your feelings about making the novel into a movie? Who would play the main characters if you were to cast it?20. What is the meaning of Richard’s final dream?

Editorial Reviews

“The Secret History succeeds magnificently. . . . A remarkably powerful novel [and] a ferociously well-paced entertainment. . . . Forceful, cerebral, and impeccably controlled.” --The New York Times“An accomplished psychological thriller. . . . Absolutely chilling. . . . Tartt has a stunning command of the lyrical.” --The Village Voice“Beautifully written, suspenseful from start to finish.” --Vogue“A haunting, compelling, and brilliant piece of fiction. . . . Packed with literary allusion and told with a sophistication and texture that owes much more to the nineteenth century than to the twentieth.” --The Times (London)“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 Philadephia Inquirer“Enthralling. . . . A remarkably powerful novel [and] a ferociously wll-paced entertainment. . . . Forceful, cerebral, and impeccably controlled.” --The New York Times Book Review“A huge, mesmerizing, galloping read, pleasurably devoured. . . . .Gorgeously written, relentlessly erudite.” –Vanity Fair