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The Secret History

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  184,914 Ratings  ·  12,981 Reviews

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

In this brilliant debut novel, Donna Tartt gives us a richly textured and hypnotic story of golden youth corrupted by its own moral arrogance.

Richard Papen had never been to New England before his nineteenth year. Then he arrived at Hamp

Hardcover, Large print edition, 957 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Random House (first published September 5th 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)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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)
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Community Reviews

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Sep 13, 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.
Maggie Stiefvater
Jul 15, 2012 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
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
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
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
Sep 04, 2007 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
Paul Bryant
Nov 18, 2007 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
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
Oct 10, 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.
Joe Hill
Sep 25, 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.

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
Dan Schwent
Dec 23, 2014 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
Jul 08, 2007 Zweegas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
destini mia
Feb 24, 2015 destini mia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
✨    jamieson   ✨
"A month or two before, I would have been appalled at the idea of any murder at all. But that Sunday afternoon, as I actually stood watching one, it seemed the easiest thing in the world."

this book starts and it's like: hello bitches, welcome to murder club. Here is Bunny, he is dead, he got murdered. strap the fuck in.

This book is actually not funny at all. It's about murder, lots of it. In the first page we find out a group of friends killed one of their own - we know the who-dunnit, this
Jun 19, 2017 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I understand why The Secret History is loathed as much as it is loved. If I remove myself a bit from what I just read, I note implausible dialogue and somewhat unbelievable plot elements, horrifically selfish and nasty main characters, overflowing with evil, sure, but mostly with ennui and snobbery and drunkenness and poor-little-rich-people and an air of erudition that's more smokescreen than substance.

I can admit to all of that objectively. Subjectively, I feverishly read this in a day and fou
Sep 01, 2013 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not hippies
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
Apr 19, 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
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
Mar 20, 2007 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
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!
Nov 17, 2009 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books that formed my everingrained inclinations toward the masterful dominions of novel writing-- I uphold the notion that it is above all other are forms. Yes, let me begin and say that I did not think this a masterpiece now, & before (c.a. 2001) I did. This was once, like, in my top ten !!! Tartt writes like any writer wanting to sell copies (masterfully)-- concisely, with a full-rounded voice and interesting historical insight along the way. There is something about ...more
Feb 13, 2017 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A classical story becomes twisted in modern times

How much do I love and admire Donna Tartt? (This is a rhetorical question; I love and admire her very, very, very much.)

I read this compulsively, single-mindedly, with the pure joy of reading sparked by the same excitement I remember having when reading The Goldfinch. She may have focussed on dark subject matter, she may have penned a story filled to the brim with selfish, unimpressed, spoiled brats, but GD can she WRITE. She's just so good. She
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
mathilde maire
i think the fact that i've just read 600 pages in a day is indication enough that this book is everything to me
Apr 21, 2012 Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hooked On Classics: Amor Vincit Omnia
[[4.5 stars]]

Gustav Klimt, Alter of Dionysus, 1886

This incredibly intriguing and suspenseful story is told from the point of view of a middle-class California outsider among a group of sheltered, secretive, elitist snots at a college in Vermont who study the Classics and, for a night, worship at the alter of Dionysus to attain the ecstasy of the Immortals. A Greek ritual to these college kids is a good deal more serious than getting soused with your frat budd
Mar 05, 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
sweet jane
Dec 29, 2016 sweet jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Εν ολίγοις, η ιστορία μιας ιδιόρρυθμης παρέας φοιτητών, η άνθιση και έπειτα η ρήξη τους, συνδυασμένη με μυστήριο και ήπιο δραματισμό.

Μοναδικό αρνητικό του βιβλίου, το οποίο ξένισε και τους περισσότερους αναγνώστες, είναι η φλυαρία. Πράγματι, σε ορισμένα σημεία η Tartt είναι ένα τσικ παραπάνω φλύαρη, αλλά ακόμα και στα σημεία που η ιστορία ξεχηλώνει το βιβλίο παραμένει γοητευτικό, αρκεί να έχεις πιάσει το πνεύμα του (εδώ είναι που χάνει και το ένα αστεράκι).

Έχω ένα πρόβλημα όμως με αυτή τη συγγρα
Jun 30, 2014 Shelby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This was something a little outside of the realm of books I usually choose, but I really did enjoy the story. The writing was sophisticated and compelling, and at times made the book hard to put down. If anyone has any recommendations for stories similar to The Secret History, let me know!
Oct 27, 2013 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-fiction
I believe I chose this book The Secret History as it was on my friend Paul's read list. It sounded like a great novel, and I hadn't heard of it before despite it being published for many years.

I took the chance...

It was a difficult read at first. I started it in March figuring I'd keep on trekking with this year's "Reading Challenge" after a good start in January and a failed continuation in February (zero read books that month!)... Somehow, it sat on my night-table throughout April with nothing
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Donna Tartt 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 her first poem, and she f
More about Donna Tartt...

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“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” 2382 likes
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