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The Secret History

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  150,428 Ratings  ·  10,553 Reviews
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 i ...more
Paperback, 629 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Penguin (first published September 1992)
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Shona It occurred to me halfway through that I was picturing him as Arthur the Aardvark from the 90s children's TV show... presumably Bunny had become…moreIt occurred to me halfway through that I was picturing him as Arthur the Aardvark from the 90s children's TV show... presumably Bunny had become Arthur's rabbit friend Buster in my mind, and then each of the characters matched up to one in the show...(less)
Erin Lawson There are a few hints that this is the case. Like Ubiqua said, there was stated to be another figure there. Julian could even have been the figure…moreThere are a few hints that this is the case. Like Ubiqua said, there was stated to be another figure there. Julian could even have been the figure they thought was Dionysus. There's also the conversation that Richard overhears part of in the stairwell of the Lyceum, between Julian and Henry, in which Julian says "you should always do what is necessary". I would believe Julian was involved with the first murder, but not Bunny's. The man in the forest was very beaten, whilst Henry only recalls hitting out at someone who startled him....

To Julian, I think the first killing wasn't intended from the outset - it wasn't sought after, but when the opportunity to live life to its extremes, as dark as they may be, was presented it couldn't be resisted. And it achieved its goal - Henry said himself that he felt exalted. I don't think Julian expected that it would lead to Bunny's murder, and when it did his guilt at turning them in to such people lead him to run.

Oh Henry....we'll be together again one day.... 3(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maggie Stiefvater
Aug 23, 2015 Maggie Stiefvater rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, recommended
Five Things About The Secret History.

This is going to be a difficult book for me to talk about. I finished it days ago but I find myself a little verklempt, I’ll admit. It’s been a long time since a book has stuck with me so completely as this one, and I say that having had a quite remarkable year for memorable reading. So, the summary is straightforward and completely unhelpful: a Californian boy arrives at a private New England college where he falls in with a bunch of snooty but delightful C
...more
Rebecca
Sep 26, 2008 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Martine
The first paragraph of The Secret History roughly sums up the mood of the book. In it, the narrator, Richard Papen, says that he thinks his fatal flaw is 'a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs'. If you can relate to these words, chances are you'll love The Secret History. If not, you'll probably wonder what the fuss is all about. Personally, I can totally relate to these words, so I love the book. I've read it over half a dozen times, and while I do think it has its problems, I never ...more
Jamie
Mar 26, 2011 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Katie McCrackin
Okay, this book. This book was a lot of fun, partially, I think, because it was written in this fashion which made determining whether this was past, present or future virtually impossible. It was very romantically written and I tend to go for that sort of thing: simple meals of tomato soup and skim milk, five college-aged students who drink tea as well as burbon, scotch and on occasion whiskey--but not with anything as muddled and middle-class as coke mixed in--no, they drink it on ice, in thic ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Aug 08, 2013 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
First of all, if you are one of those people who dismiss a book as inherently bad simply because you "just couldn't relaaa-yeeete to aunnny of the charaaactaaaars *gum smack-smack-smack*" then do not read this book. If you can relate to anyone in this novel, then I dismiss you as inherently bad. In fact, I fucking hate you. Yes, you, because my guess is that, as a modern-day example of all the characters in this novel, you probably have a goodreads account, and read nothing but "tome-suh" and wr ...more
Nick
This. Was. Utterly. Fucking. Awful. A murder mystery dressed up as something more; a whydone it rather than a whodoneit — though very quickly you will think of it as a whogivesafuckit. Narrated by the blandest man on the planet. Peopled with idiotic, insufferable, intellectual, navel-gazing twats you cannot differentiate because Tartt decided to throw character development and discernible personalities out the window. A book so boring it brings to mind George Carlin’s description of watching gol ...more
Abby
Oct 17, 2007 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who went to a liberal arts college
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Bryant
Dec 04, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Apparently the New York Times described The Secret History as "Powerful...Enthralling...A ferociously well-paced entertainment" and Time said "A smart, craftsman-like, viscerally compelling novel."

Very funny, guys, ha ha and all that. They're such jolly jokesters. They'll have you believing anything. The Secret History is complete tripe - no, that's harsh, let me put it another way - it's COMPLETE TRIPE - oh dear, this keyboard has a mind of its own! and is very firm about its opinions too! - b
...more
Joe Hill
Oct 23, 2007 Joe Hill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Someone just brought up Nietzsche’s Apollonian vs. Dionysian theory, which is described at the link below, if you are as unfamiliar as I was. http://www.geocities.com/danielmacrya...

Apparently Donna Tartt was well-versed in this theme, as it is prevalent in The Secret History. The gist of Nietzsche’s theory is that the ancient Greeks attained such a high level of culture mainly due to their personal struggle between the opposing philosophies of Apollo and Dionysus; Apollo being the god of art, a
...more
Zweegas
Apr 01, 2009 Zweegas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Samadrita
UPDATE 18/02/2014:-Given how often I think of this book and the conspicuous prickle at the back of my neck every time I remember the characters and their cold complicity in one ignoble act after another, I guess it won't be an exaggeration to state that the memories of reading this book are more potent than the experience of actually reading it was. I am not disowning my earlier review but I believe the only way to be fair to Donna Tartt will be to concede another star.

Now begins my earlier revi
...more
Destini Mia~ ♕ Sassy Lassie
“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”

I'm still in limbo after finishing this book. Honestly, I don't know what I was expecting from The Secret History. This is one of those books were you finish the last page, put it down, and don't know what to do with yourself.
But walking through it all was one thing; walking away, unfortunately, has proved to be quite another, and though o
...more
Dan Schwent
Feb 11, 2015 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
When Richard Papen joins an exclusive group of Classics students, he has no idea of the secret world of drugs, alcohol, and violence he's about to be thrust into. When one of the students winds up dead, can the rest cope or destroy themselves?

Yeah, it sounds like the crime books I usually read but it's a whole lot deeper than that. This is one of those Big Important Books, full of things like themes and literary references. Like Jim Thompson getting the sauce under control and writing about coll
...more
Alex
Shortly after starting this book I Wikipedia'd Donna Tartt, to see if I was dealing with some sort of reverse George Eliot; I had been under the impression that only men got as smugly pretentious as Tartt does. But no, she's a real lady! Ask Bret Easton Ellis, whom she was banging at U. Miss while in a grad writing course that also included Jonathan Lethem and Jill Eisenstadt, so that is a whopping lot of talent in one course, and also Bret Easton Ellis.

And you sortof start to wonder, did he sta
...more
mark monday
The Secret History is about as convincing as Less Than Zero. how has this book stayed so popular? well, Less Than Zero also remains popular. i'll take lev grossman's The Magicians over both of them, and that one is aggravating too. (1) i'm so tired of people who are so tired of everything! (1b) ennui is so very boring, almost as boring as (2) pretentious know-it-alls. this book manages to combine all three. i learned nothing except a new way to be irritated. oh, donna tartt... as if!
Arah-Lynda
And after we stood whispering in the underbrush – one last look at the body and a last look round, no dropped keys, lost glasses, everybody got everything? – and then started single file through the woods, I took one glance back through the saplings that leapt to close the path behind me. Though I remember the walk back and the first lonely flakes of snow that came drifting through the pines, remember piling gratefully into the car and starting down the road like a family on vacation, with Henry ...more
Manny
Apr 23, 2009 Manny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember that I liked it when I read it. But I don't recall that much of the book, and in general my system is that the less I remember, the more I mark it down. Of course, that could say more about me than about the book.

I do recall being just a little skeptical about how good the author's knowledge of classics was. It's not like I know anything about the subject - I did a couple of years of Latin at school, which I hated, and I only just passed my exams. But there were a couple of funny mome
...more
Oriana
Jan 05, 2014 Oriana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You guys, I am really scared that The Goldfinch was so fucking good that it has ruined me for all other books. Everything I've read since has just felt like stupid bullshit (well, with the exception of You Deserve Nothing , which did manage to rule).

Anyway, using the "hair of the dog" theory, I'm turning back to this for a re-read. Maybe once I come out the other side I'll be recalibrated and ready for normal reading life again?

***

Great good gracious. I am honestly a bit tongue-tied, delirious
...more
Gary
Mar 18, 2014 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
This book will linger in my memory for a long time. I was nearly finished with it last night, and found myself awake thinking not only about how it will end, but about several of the scenes and how they come together in the end. The author wrote this book masterfully and I found myself completely immersed in the story and the characters.
The plot moves slowly, but it has so much depth and complexity it needs to. I read this book after Tartt's The Little Friend (despite the lower reviews), and I a
...more
Madeline
The best word I can think of to describe this book is mesmerizing. You know from the very first page that the narrator and his friends will kill someone during the course of the story - you even know who the victim is and how he dies. But that didn't stop me from reading this book as fast as I could, trying to absorb every word.
A truly gifted author can create the most unappealing character possible and still draw the audience to his/her side. Donna Tartt does exactly this with her main charact
...more
Chelsea Humphrey
Patricia and myself decided to read this for our Buddy Read in A Good Thriller this month, as neither of us could figure out how we'd made it so long without experiencing the hype sooner. I was a little anxious to start it because I was worried of being disappointed by the build up. What if I was one of the seemingly 1% who didn't fan girl over this? Luckily, it did not disappoint.

Ya, I jumped on the bandwagon and got sucked into the hype. Sue me. I whole heartedly dove into this one and am sad
...more
Amy (shoutame)
Apr 21, 2016 Amy (shoutame) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
An incredibly captivating and beautifully written read! Looking forward to reading more from Donna Tartt soon.

We follow the story of six eccentric students as they make their way through college. Our protagonist is a young man named Richard who is new to the college and soon finds himself obsessing over the illusive Greek professor and his specially selected group of students. Richard manages to convince the professor to take him on and he soon finds himself amongst five extremely clever peers.
...more
R.J. Astruc
Jun 29, 2011 R.J. Astruc rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a load of pretentious bum-poo.

The Secret History is the story of a bunch of dull but preternaturally beautiful super-nerds who study subjects no one cares about at a fantasy university where the only work you have to do is compete to see who is the Biggest Disaffected Sulkypants on the planet.

I met a guy once who was just like this book, as it happens. He drank a lot of rum, talked rot about Neitzsche and foreign existentialist movies we'd never seen, then spent five hours puking into the b
...more
Rowena
Sep 23, 2012 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
What an amazing book! Reading the book made me wish I'd studied Greek classics at University; the stories and philosophies of the ancient Greeks seem so fascinating. This is definitely a very intellectual, psychological read with a lot of mystery. The language is beautiful. I read somewhere that some people complained about Donna Tartt essentially showing off her knowledge and vocabulary in this book but I really don't see what the problem is; I enjoyed how she expressed herself and what's langu ...more
B the BookAddict
Feb 09, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Jeffrey Keeten


Yesterday and the day before that, I went to Hampden College in Vermont, USA. To be specific, I was enrolled as a Greek scholar in a very small group tutored by Julian Morrow whom we all revered. We were a group of only six, wrote with fountain pens (the nearest thing to a quill), wore suits, cultivated roses, frequently conversed in Greek or Latin, smoked, drove soft-top cars with stick shifts, drank, did some coke (please don't tell my mom that bit) and in the woods tried to attain the Greek e
...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja & Luminescent Monster*


How can I express to you the experience that was The Secret History? I could squander my review space on a running dialogue that is the beginning, middle and conclusion of the story itself BUT that is merely the sum of it's parts NOT the sum of my reading experience. I could hide myself behind a shadow of past choices and realizations, as I did with Tartt's The Goldfinch, but I feel that would do a disservice to this novel. So what shall I do, you ask?!

The Secret History is a story which can, a
...more
Lotte
The expectations for this book couldn't have been higher (I had almost exclusively read raving reviews) and for the first time ever, I wasn't disappointed! The "hype" is definitely justified. It was exactly what I expected in some ways, and completely different in others.
I enjoyed this book immensely, even though I was stuck in some sort of "dilemma" while reading: The writing was impeccable and made me want to savor and appreciate every single sentence, but the storyline was so gripping that I
...more
Stephen P
Dec 04, 2013 Stephen P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
As tempting as it is I don't believe that reading a book changes a life. I do believe that great books lead to an accumulation of small alterations which further develops a, thinking-self. This is a self, in Svenn Birketts article in a past issue of the American Scholar, that exists parallel but apart from the self that is goal-oriented and copes with the world. This other self is inward, reflective, contemplative, associative and devoid of goals. It exists for and within itself. It leads us to ...more
Brian Calandra
At the transition from the first to second half of the story, marked by a FIFTY-PAGE reveal in a single monologue by a character who's defining trait is his inscrutable lack of emotion, the reader discovers that things aren't what they seem. Unfortunately, the second half's hook is that things are exactly what they seem: these kids believe every action oozes the portent of Oedipus at the Oracle when, in fact, the world is humming along without paying them the least mind. While that may be the po ...more
Shovelmonkey1
Jul 04, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who won't be disappointed that not everyone dies
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 book group on GR
Ah smug and mostly over privileged college kids run amock in a half-arsed orgy of sex (or at least some illicit below the belt touching), drugs and classical music (no rock n roll at this Bacchanalian blood fest - that would be way too low brow). I could not stop myself from imagining the cast of Buffy in the title roles if this gets made into a film. Maybe it has been made into a film? I have a proven Goodreads review history of not knowing that books have already been made into films... anyway ...more
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Donna Tartt (born 23 December 1963) is an American writer who received critical acclaim for her first two novels, The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2002). Tartt was the 2003 winner of the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend.

The daughter of Don and Taylor Tartt, she was born in Greenwood, Mississippi but raised 32 miles away in Grenada, Mississippi. At age five, she wrote h
...more
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“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” 2100 likes
“Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.” 533 likes
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