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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed
Since I'm so late to the game with regards to Donna Tartt's hit novel "The Secret History", I'll just try to list the things I found striking about the book, both positive and negative:
1) The author is clearly knowledgeable about ancient Greek, and conveys some of the power and expressiveness inherent in the language (or so I imagine -- I never studied it myself,...
Published on March 12 2003 by E A Glaser

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why so much hype?
I bought this book because I read in Newsweek that it had a cult following. The cover of the book quotes reviews saying it is "impossible to leave alone until I finished" and that "the pages beg to be turned." Unfortunately, I didn't find it to be so exciting. The prologue reveals that the Hampden College students in the book will kill a fellow student named Bunny...
Published on Jan. 24 2003 by debbysbooks


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed, March 12 2003
By 
E A Glaser (Delft, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
Since I'm so late to the game with regards to Donna Tartt's hit novel "The Secret History", I'll just try to list the things I found striking about the book, both positive and negative:
1) The author is clearly knowledgeable about ancient Greek, and conveys some of the power and expressiveness inherent in the language (or so I imagine -- I never studied it myself, but I would like to after reading this book).
2) "The Secret History" is definitely a page-turner. I read it in a mad frenzy over three days. I think the author "cheated" to keep my interest though -- clues to the plot are parcelled out quite parsimoniously and the reader is forced to share the confusion and gradual dawning of the narrator. It's well done but frustrating; the epicenter of my annoyance lies with the character of Henry, who is inscrutable and enigmatic throughout. The novel might have been less exciting without this haze thrown over the main characters' motivations, but it seems kind of cheap to build suspense by teasing the reader with half-heard conversations and veiled comments all the time.
3) The characters are drawn quickly and convincingly, but not fleshed out as much as I'd expect from such an ambitious novel. Otherwise I think the author's writing style is very good -- some nice turns of phrase but still very readable and not show-offy. Some reviewers here have complained about the brief bits of non-English dialogue. There are a few times when it's not translated, but they were rare enough not to bother me.
4) You can definitely guess what kind of college life the author had from "The Secret History". In the book she mercilessly stereotypes vapid cokeheads, aggressive party boys and loopy hippies. The main characters, a group of six students studying ancient Greek and the classics together, are very segregated from their schoolmates and the outside world.
5) If I drank as much and slept as little in college as the characters in this book, I don't think that I'd have had the stamina to graduate. Otherwise, the novel progresses pretty plausibly, reminding me of the movie "The Simple Plan": A seemingly simple situation grows more and more thorny as the tension escalates and the students take actions that seem reasonable at the time, but have unintended consequences.
All in all it was a good read. I especially enjoyed that it got me excited about the classics -- Now I wish I had the time, talent, and energy to learn ancient Greek.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why so much hype?, Jan. 24 2003
By 
"debbysbooks" (Memphis, TN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
I bought this book because I read in Newsweek that it had a cult following. The cover of the book quotes reviews saying it is "impossible to leave alone until I finished" and that "the pages beg to be turned." Unfortunately, I didn't find it to be so exciting. The prologue reveals that the Hampden College students in the book will kill a fellow student named Bunny. Then, Richard Papen, the narrator, begins the story telling how he got to Hampden and how became one of the group of students studying Greek exclusively under a professor named Julian Morrow. The story of how the murder occurred and what happened in its aftermath unfolds. The narrator presents the turns and twists of the story unemotionally so that the driving force of the book is more the weirdness of the relationships that have developed between the students than it is actual events. I never felt emotionally attached to the characters, connected to any guilt they may have felt, or concerned about their fates. I experienced the novel with a complacency that allowed me to "leave [it] alone" numerous times. I will say that the narrator describes the New England surroundings and the college's atmosphere with a vividness. The word choices are more lyrical and intellectual than your typical pop-culture book. Despite this, I feel the writing style was less challenging than _Harper's Magazine_. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, but if you're interested in it, I suggest you read it for yourself to see if you agree with me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Amazon Pick!, May 11 2005
This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
When we think of murder, we almost without exception regard it as a profoundly unethical, inhumane and immoral act. But even so, murders do occur, and consequently we often consider those who have committed murder as, in a fundamental way, different from those who have not, and explaining them being able to commit such horrible acts by thinking of them as abnormal or just plain insane.
In Donna Tartts The Secret History another explanation to murder is offered. Tartt refuses to portray the act of murder as a consequences of one single decision or motive, but instead tries to reveal those psychological mechanism that make murder possible; it is with far reaching insights, and a great sense of detail that she shows that no one step in the chain is larger than the other. Once the unthinkable becomes thinkable, it is close to become an option, and once an option, it is not far from deliberated, and then we are well on the way to the act itself. Tartt shows murder to be something banal, and that is what makes her book so relevant, and at the same time so disturbing, because once in face of this conclusion about murder, the distance between those who are able to commit it, and those who are not, vanishes; it is not a criminal mind that makes a murderer, it is circumstances, and once in such circumstances there is nothing that reveals them to be out of the ordinary.
So now you know someone is going to be murdered even before you have opened the book. But don't despair, Tartt were not trying to hold you in suspense about what was going to happen, the murder is a given from the get-go. Instead she sets out to do something much more difficult; to portray an answer to the question WHY a murder took place at all. What makes The Secret History so engaging, so thought provoking, is that Tartt takes this task seriously, and actually manages to accomplish what she set out to do. A great read, but try it for yourself! Pick up a copy! Another book I need to recommend -- completely unrelated to Heller, but very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition," a funny, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped, Dec 28 2002
By 
"me-jane" (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
To be honest, I don't really understand why this novel spawned such fanaticism and rock-star-esque heroine-worship for Donna Tartt. Sure, it's a gripping page-turner, and Donna Tartt writes crisp, occasionally beautiful prose, but I'm still not sure this quite deserves the classic status it seems to have been afforded. For a start, the plot seems a little telemovie for me -it plays right into popular cultural fantasies of evil, glamorous rich kids and their coke-snorting, amoral ways, mixed up with equally potent popular fantasies of arcane learning having a sinister heart (basically, a popular suspicion of the rich and over-educated.) I didn't really believe in any of the characters, although I was fairly happy to permit their larger-than-life, unreal existence within the context of an enjoyable, slightly trashy and extremely well-executed thriller. I'm still a bit confused as to why so many people claim this book changed their lives...It entertained me for a few late nights, but it's hardly great literature. Tartt's second novel, which I'm reading at the moment, seems to merit such high acclaim much more than this one does.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Classic, April 15 2014
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This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
Absolutely riveting and impeccably written. Awaiting Donna Tartt's next masterpiece with great anticipation. Destined to be a classic of the genre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars EERIE AND INTERESTING., March 5 2014
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This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
What I loved most about this novel is the way it was written. The story is bizarre but interesting. A real study in the human psyche and morality, and lack there of. There is a piece of all of us in these characters. Will definitely read the authors other book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I agree that it is over-hyped, Dec 26 2013
By 
Bassim Zantout "b" (Windsor,Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
I agree with reviewer "me-jane" that this novel is over hyped even though it is a pager turner and an avid reader would find it difficult letting this book down. I am not going to go into the intentions and position of the author probably because it is hard to do that but the novel does raise a lot of moral issues and dilemmas. I do think that the only morally acceptable stance, though far from the desired one, was taken by Julian who totally refused to continue teaching those bunch of rich and spoiled kids who spent most of their time drinking and taking drugs when he knew that it was them who committed both crimes. Here I also have to agree with another reviewer who mentioned that if students living the kind of life this group led would have hard time graduating.

At times the novel made me quite angry. Henry, the mastermind and leader of the group, is the most ridiculous and abhorrent figure in the novel. I found the relationship of the twins quite repulsive as well.

However, as a thriller, I would give it five stars. A nice read during snowy and subzero days. Enjoyed it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too long by 300 pages, May 12 2003
By A Customer
This book is too long by at least 300 pages. Like an old river, the author drags one chapter after another along curves that lead here and there and may be cut entirely without losing the story's thread or a sense of the characters and their foibles. At first, I was curious and kept reading on, but I soon lost interest as the interminable conversations and descriptions of minutiae degenerated into some bad version of stream of consciousness writing. It may be a good first novel, but I wish the author or her editors would have been more aggressive with their pruning tools.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Some Cure albums could have saved us all a lot of trouble, June 30 1999
By A Customer
Ms Tartt and I did not get off to a good start, even before she'd written a word of text. She dedicates the book to her pal Brett Easton Ellis, author of several dreadful books. And any friend of Ellis's is no friend of mine.
'The Secret History' is a long, but very slender story of friendship, murder, guilt and disintegration, both of the individual and of the group. The group here consists of six young classics students who sulk and brood around a Vermont college feeling superior to everybody else (and, I got the creepy feeling, to me, the innocent reader). The characters range from irritating (Richard Papen, the book's narrator) to despicable (everybody else) and I think it's a great pity that Tartt didn't kill off more of them.
The book is by turns over-written, under-written and poorly-written while, at other times, it is simply inept. But most of all it's just plain boring - full of hollow, adolescent musings on how difficult it is to be young, "different" and brilliant. (I thought listening to old Cure albums was supposed to help with that tough problem.) It's the kind of thing the Ally Sheedy character in 'The Breakfast Club' might have written if she was in detention for five years instead of just a day. Tartt's mock-Gothic, Vermont Victorian style also allows her to use the word 'apt' far too often, as well as indulge in some mighty purple prose, mostly concerned with endless descriptions of the weather. Perhaps her true gift lies in meteorology.
Despite all this, I managed to finish the book because Tartt succeeds so well in presenting murder-victim Bunny as such an annoying pinhead that I couldn't wait for the others to kill him. But once that's over, the rest of the players revert to their customary behaviour of saying 'apt', drinking cups of tea and being young, different and brilliant. Good for them!
As an examination of despair, the book works - if you finish it, you'll really know the meaning of the word. And you'll wish that 'The Secret History' had remained just that - a secret.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Over my head!, March 2 2009
By 
J. Cochrane (coqutilam, BC Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret History (Paperback)
I bought this book after seeing it reviewed in the magazine REAL SIMPLE, as I had great luck with the other books on their list. However, I cannot get into this book. I've tried several times, but have given up. I feel like I am a fairly intelligent person (I graduated from college!), but I need a dictionary in my other hand to read this book! While I'm sure it would be ultimately beneficial to me to look up each word and increase my own vocabulary, I am done with school and don't want to have to study anymore.
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The Secret History
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Hardcover - Sept. 5 1992)
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