A READ WITH JENNA BOOK CLUB PICK • ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE'S 100 BEST MYSTERY AND THRILLER BOOKS OF ALL TIME • INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • A contemporary literary classic and "an accomplished psychological thriller ... absolutely chilling" (Village Voice), from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Goldfinch.
Under the influence of a charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a way of thought and life a world away from their banal contemporaries. But their search for the transcendent leads them down a dangerous path, beyond human constructs of morality.
“A remarkably powerful novel [and] a ferociously well-paced entertainment.... Forceful, cerebral, and impeccably controlled.” —The New York Times
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Pick up this ominous mystery set within the ivy-covered walls of an elite college campus if you’re looking for a read to be savored. Richard is newly enrolled at Vermont’s Hampden College when he falls in with some unusual friends. The five privileged students all love studying ancient Greek scholars, and they all follow a classics professor named Julian Morrow—almost like a cult. But as Richard gets drawn deeper into their world, he makes some shocking discoveries about just how far they take their unusual philosophy, and how far they expect him to go. Pulitzer Prize–winner Donna Tartt masterfully throws us into Richard’s exciting and unsettling world. Her writing is rich, atmospheric, and as beautiful as the charming but flawed students who all leave Richard so infatuated. Fans of the character-driven writing of Hanya Yanagihara and Celeste Ng will love this modern-day Greek tragedy, which is a wickedly smart tale of beauty and decay.
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.
The Secret History
A Rare Good Read
Mesmerized me for an entire weekend...a shadowy mystery that reminds me of The Magus, My Cousin Rachael..the characters, the story...one of those books to read over and over.
Elegant. Heartbreaking. Twisted.
Beauty is in fact terrifying.