A 'haunting, compelling, and brilliant'(The Times) novel about a group of students who, under the influence of their professor find their lives changed forever, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Goldfinch
Truly deserving of the accolade 'modern classic', Donna Tartt's novel is a remarkable achievement - 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 away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality, their lives are changed profoundly and for ever as they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.
'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
Tartt's much bruited first novel is a huge (592 pages) rambling story that is sometimes ponderous, sometimes highly entertaining. Part psychological thriller, part chronicle of debauched, wasted youth, it suffers from a basically improbable plot, a fault Tartt often redeems through the bravado of her execution. Narrator Richard Papen comes from a lower-class family and a loveless California home to the ``hermetic, overheated atmosphere'' of Vermont's Hampden College. Almost too easily, he is accepted into a clique of five socially sophisticated students who study Classics with an idiosyncratic, morally fraudulent professor. Despite their demanding curriculum (they quote Greek classics to each other at every opportunity) the friends spend most of their time drinking and taking pills. Finally they reveal to Richard that they accidentally killed a man during a bacchanalian frenzy; when one of their number seems ready to spill the secret, the group--now including Richard--must kill him, too. The best parts of the book occur after the second murder, when Tartt describes the effect of the death on a small community, the behavior of the victim's family and the conspirators' emotional disintegration. Here her gifts for social satire and character analysis are shown to good advantage and her writing is powerful and evocative. On the other hand, the plot's many inconsistencies, the self-indulgent, high-flown references to classic literature and the reliance on melodrama make one wish this had been a tauter, more focused novel. In the final analysis, however, readers may enjoy the pull of a mysterious, richly detailed story told by a talented writer. 75,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I've just finished this book, so I'm writing the review fresh, and I think all I can say is that I'm really glad I read it, and equally glad it's over. It's very well written, and occasionally great fun, and it's also - just as occasionally - boring.
One of my favourite novels
We think we know who died, but how...and why? Set in a monied New England college which is a complete culture shock to the narrator, an elite group of Greek students capture his attention. Beautifully crafted writing by Donna Tartt in her debut novel which captures the awe and wonder of a West Coast scholarship student who is looking for his identity, but at what cost?
Donna Tartt writes in a completely captivating style; vividly describing the colourful details of existence itself in such a poetic manner that I find utterly intriguing.
The Secret History is a coded warning to all of us about how we bear responsibility for our own destinies, and how we should value the gold dust one another's friendship on a daily basis.
Her characters are well-delineated;absolutely believable and based, I feel, on real individuals studied "through a glass darkly".
I recommend this book highly to all who are interested in the rich subject of the human condition.