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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Fictional story of friends at an upscale New England college and what happens when they accidentally commit a murder.

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An "OMG, Where Have You Been All My Life?" Reading Experience

  • Dec 31, 2010
Tartt's story, about a college student who wheedles his way into an exclusive group of eccentric Greek majors at a small liberal arts college and participates in the murder (and subsequent cover-up) of one of his new friends, is straight-up creepy, but her world and its characters are so fully realized that, were I not afraid of freezing to death in an unheated Vermont warehouse or being shoved off a cliff and left for dead, I'd want to curl up and live inside this book. Tartt's language is powerfully evocative; her descriptions are vivid and unforgettable; and her dialogue is almost painfully authentic.

The Secret History pulls off one of my favorite literary tricks in that it begins with the ending (by revealing the murder) and devotes the majority of the book not to detailing what happened but to explaining how and why. Readers who prefer plot-driven narratives will find much to love in the storyline, and readers who, like me, are all about the writing are bound to fall head over heels with Tartt's way with words. The startling near-perfection of this book is made even more remarkable by the fact that it is Tartt's debut novel, and I don't have a vocabulary large enough to begin describing the myriad reasons that every reader of literary fiction should own a well-worn copy.

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January 14, 2011
This sounds like a creepy but, fun read- perfect for curling up next to the fire!
More The Secret History by Donna Ta... reviews
review by . June 28, 2010
To the moderate, modern sensibility, grief is experienced as a mild synthesis of opposites.  We bear up and keep a stiff upper lip.  Yet we're expected to lapse in this, to occasionally let symptoms of grief break through.  We have the 'social support network,' but other people do not directly, vocally share in our grief; we don't indulge in mass lamentation.  The terrible things that happen to us are seen as horrible, random accidents; but we're counseled …
review by . June 17, 2010
The story begins with the main character, Richard, who is trying to find a way out of his "miserable" (re: middle class) life in California. He applies to a private college in Vermont and is accepted. Once there, he decides to major in Greek and meets the other characters in the story--Henry, Francis, Camilla, Charles, and Bunny. These characters are all from wealthy families and, out of boredom, attempt to recreate ancient Greek rituals. They actually succeed at one point, but during …
review by . July 11, 2010
Compulsively readable
I’ve read this book probably half a dozen times since I first picked it up in as an undergraduate. It’s so thoroughly addictive, for a number of reasons. First, Tartt accomplishes the difficult feat of writing an intellectual novel that is obsessively detail-oriented and yet is an incredibly well-paced mystery. You learn about a murder on the first page, and then the whole novel unravels for you how it happened, with liberal doses of ancient Greek literary and philosophical references …
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Fascinating look at an offbeat topic. It will keep you turning pages until the end.
Quick Tip by . June 21, 2010
LONG LONG LONG. But interesting characters.
About the reviewer
Rebecca Joines Schinsky ()
Ranked #229
Panty-throwing, book-loving wild woman behind The Book Lady's Blog. Reader, critic, lover of indie bookstores, National Book Critics Circle member.
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