Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, established herself as a major talent with The Secret History, which has become a contemporary classic.
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 it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.
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
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.
I found this book through a recommendation from a blog, it took a while for me to purchase the book, but boy, it was definitely worth it. The author put their heart into this book, making you feel as if the narrator, Richard, was literally talking to you and making you feel as if you're living every detail. It's such an amazing book, with rich words, and every sentence you read makes you want to read more and more. I couldn't take my eyes of my phone while reading this. This is a MUST GET! I loved it, and I know that you will too.