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My Secret History

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,447 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Brilliantly written, erotically charged, My Secret History is Paul Theroux's tour de force. It is the story of Andre Parent, a writer, a world traveller, a lover of every kind of woman he chances to meet in a life as varied as a man can lead.

It begins with his days as a Massachusetts altar boy, when his first furtive sexual encounter introduces him to the thrills of leadin
Paperback, 512 pages
Published September 29th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 1989)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,447 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who like anti-heroes
Andre isn't really his name, but he thinks it sounds classier than Andrew. He attracts women, he writes articles, he moved to Africa because he loves living there, and he makes hardly any real connection with the people he pleases himself with. He lives in a series of little paradises with one woman or another, and at the first injection of reality, he must escape. I'm two-thirds of the way through the book, still waiting for him to do something that isn't self-indulgent. Maybe the emigre teache ...more
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
good read. bad ending.

seriously, what was that ending supposed to be about? "i know. the book's about secrets. i'm going to make the ultimate secret be the book's outcome." it's like the sopranos. the audience demands an ending.
Jul 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
A perfect book to take on a trip, compact and engrossing. Six or seven parts, each almost a novella, set in the stages of life from adolescence to middle age. Fiction, but the stories follow the curve of Theroux's life. The narrator starts off as a gun-toting altarboy, ends up as a writer with two homes, a wife and a mistress. The poignant scene where he bicycles to meet his son, by then studying for exams at a British school, will stick to the ribs of any parent. The book has something for ever ...more
Kevin Shannon
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am on a Theroux kick as jennifer Anniston is marrying into the family, and it seems like a good time to indulge.I do love Paul Theroux as a prose stylist, reading him is like eating "budder". Effortless and uninvolved, he is a perfect narrator, even with this most autobiographic of novels. The story follows Andre Parent (write a treatise on the choice of that heros moniker) from Catholic adolesence in Boston to teching in Malawi to a life as travel writer in London and cape Cod, venturing to I ...more
Riley Haas
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
"This is a mediocre novel with a great ending. I don't really know why I'm supposed to care about this guy's affairs, which he won't reveal to anyone except, you know, the readers of the book. Whatever it is that attracts me to stories is missing from this one. I couldn't care less about this guy. I don't like him. And I don't find his interactions funny (though I think that was the intention as at least one blurb on the book says the book is funny). I find him sad. I find him generally unlikabl ...more
Elizabeth Redmond
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this wonderful book. I read it about 20 years ago. I treasured it so much I took to underlining not just sentenced but paragraphs. Great read. Bought a fresh one ., no underlining this time.
Jul 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
My Secret History is a ferris wheel ride of situational tragedy, comedy and the author being a schmuck. This may be passed off as fiction but you know it's all his life. Entertaining and interesting. For travel junkies his stories are amazing and he has a past full of fabulous adventures. Good, good stuff. ...more
Robert Lofstedt
Dec 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy Paul Theroux, having read a half dozen of his better-know books. But this is a real let-down. Basically is a temporal summary of a habitual fornicator (and I am certainly no prude). The story is confused and shallow; a disappointment. This book can only damage his reputation as an author.

After struggling though it, I gave up about 80% of the way through...
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel was an unexpected delight and very enjoyable read. I picked this up along with 2 other novels by the Author at a low sale price, I wasn't expecting much therefore but this novel really impressed me and I immediately took to the authors style of writing.

The story and plot is effectively self biography of the lead characters life from teenage years to his mid 40s, based across his time spent living in the US, Africa and the UK. I believe some aspects are based on the authors real life e
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
AMAZING! all 444 pages.
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Theroux fans
Paul Theroux produces another semi-autobiographical, fictionalised account of his travels in Africa, and marital life in London. This book struck me for one great aspect or running theme – people always have a secret life, one or the other, morally satisfying or not, and that second you, will always be your true self. He repeats and rephrases the notion at several points in his book. And it’s true.

You might be an adulterer, a writer, a musician, an artist, a husband in your secret life. That is
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I could have used a trigger warning for this "novel," which is transparently an autobiography. I have enough narcissistic sociopaths in my life without seeking the company of another one, regardless of his skill at narrating travelogues.

Attractiveness can be a curse. It can make a weak person muddle their values just because a passing piece of ass plays into their pathology. I know this first-hand, having been on both sides of that equation.

Theroux is generally thought of as an attractive guy
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
vintage theroux...equal parts travel, memory, and revision. ever the voyeur, theroux is willing to say what so many might like to but are afraid to claim as their own - the missteps, arrogance-s, and self absorptive behavior in which we all marinate from time to time.
Jun 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Generally well written and well told. But it is generally a tale of self absorption. A person who satisfies himself with little or no regard for the dignity an feels of those he comes in contact with. And he feels justified in his actions.
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading about the secret sexual exploits of, pretty obviously, Paul Theroux, thinly disguised as Andrew Parent. The more I read by this author, the more I like him. It took a lot of guts to reveal all this stuff! I couldn't do it! (not yet, anyway). Very well written, a page turner. ...more
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant story teller, a brilliant book. All the way through I was thinking 'how can all these women find him so attractive', and now I know, because I think I may be a little bit in love with him too. ...more
Dec 12, 2010 rated it did not like it
Paul Theroux is a good writer. He's also a total douchebag and a womanizer. I couldn't wait until this book was over and I could leave him behind. ...more
Bolaji Olatunde
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Hilarious, touching and unashamed. I could not help but take exception to the notion expressed in the novel that African writers are celebrated plagiarists but that did not spoil the fun for me.
Pam Tomkinson
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite novels by Paul Theroux, I've read it several times. ...more
Michael Matthews
This is my all time favourite book. It has everything - travel, life, love. Great, great read.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a novel by the well-known travel writer Paul Theroux. Presumably, much of the book is autobiographical, but the author is not telling us what is and what isn’t. The protagonist joins the Peace Corps, as did the author. He eventually becomes a travel writer, as did Theroux.

Much of the story revolves around the main character, Andre Parent, having a “secret histroy” involving sexual liaisons and other behavior his public self would not admit to being involved in. The novel is well-written
Nick Thorp
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I have always been fascinated by Paul Theroux's exotic travel books that fed my imagination, so I jumped at the chance to read this novel of bildungsroman. Theroux's loosely autobiographical novel of a man's coming of age, rom boyhood attraction to the priesthood, to adolescent sexual initiation, to young adulthood in Africa, to a husband with marital problems. I read this the year it was published in paperback, and I recall an encounter with an evangelical friend of mine who was gay but celibat ...more
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not 100% sure what to think. The underlying issue of duality really struck me and I was left thinking about the book for quite a while after reading it so therr must be something to it, but given that it’s semi-autobiographical one can’t help but feel that the dislike the author so famously felt toward other people was somehow also self-directed in the way he treated his protagonist in the book.

I come from southern Africa, so the Nyasaland parts felt well-described. Some of the scenes in the boo
I have always been fascinated by Paul Theroux's exotic travel books that fed my imagination, so I jumped at the chance to read this novel of bildungsroman. Theroux's loosely autobiographical novel tells of a man's coming of age, from boyhood attraction to the priesthood, to adolescent sexual initiation, to young adulthood in Africa, to a husband with marital problems. ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the travelling elements. Main character/narrator is a nob. Disconcerting that he’s partially based on Theroux himself. Reflects real life in that nobody’s perfect and everyone does dodgy things.
Pat Raab
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Evocative and complicated. An uncertain youth becomes a multi-faceted man. Still, there is a terrible sadness in this story, a feeling of being forever searching and remaining incomplete, participating in life but not really living.
May 13, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
At the start I was interested to see where this would go. But the main protagonist turned out to be a pretty unimpressive and unlikeable character, with whom I really didn’t enjoy spending any time. And it never gets better. Wish I hadn’t bothered!
Sean Kinch
May 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“My writing came out of confusion and loneliness and joy—every emotion; and after I wrote, it was real. But I was never able to give a name to this process. It was my deepest secret, the life I led beyond all those others.”
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like the way Theroux writes. I liked his sense of humor, his insights...
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more

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“One of my luckiest instincts lay in being able to tell when I was happy— at the time, not afterwards. Most people don’t realize until long afterwards that they have passed through a period of happiness. Their enjoyment takes the form of reminiscence, and it is always tinged with regret that they had not known at the time how happy they were. But I knew, and my memory (of bad times too) was detailed and intense.” 1 likes
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