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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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Compulsively readable

  • Jul 11, 2010
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 thrown in. Second, the main character, Richard Papen, is the perfect everyman - he gets drawn into the circle of elite Greek students and in turn draws in the reader in exactly the same tantalizing way. His “tragic flaw,” which he describes as “a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs” is something to which I can relate, and the novel beautifully captures Richard’s perceptions of his life during one fateful year at a small Vermont college. The characters are wonderfully detailed, and the relationships are complex and finely drawn. Finally, I always find this book quite moving, as it chronicles unfulfilled longing and the dissolution of friendships.
Compulsively readable

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July 11, 2010
Good summary and analysis of an engaging book.
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 …
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.
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Patsy Hatt ()
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