The Secret History Paperback – 1993
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
There is more than a bit of Leopold and Loeb throughout. Consider this exchange, “But how,” said Charles, who was close to tears, “how can you possibly justify cold-blooded murder?’ Henry lit a cigarette. “I prefer to think of it,” he had said, “as redistribution of matter.” Soon actions haunt all involved and their tell-tale hearts take many forms offering fascinating views of individual and group behaviour.
In 2013, John Mullan wrote "Ten reasons why we love Donna Tartt's The Secret History" in The Guardian. Mullan included in the list, "It starts with a murder", "It has all the best elements of the campus novel", and "It is obsessed with beauty." Indeed, there are many references to beauty, "Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” Tartt teaches us that beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder given what her characters find beautiful.
The book is thick with complex observations and challenging thoughts, "For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow, unhesitating, relentless. It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Read it twice over the years and I still buy it as gifts for the readers on my list.Published 2 months ago by Lynne Helps
Everything this great author writes is a chef-d'oeuvre à la Proust, I enjoy so much her characters and especially her long and never ending description phrases,,,, as soon... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Claudette Hamel
The high quality of the book I received secondhand was a pleasant surprise. All my friends read this book last year but I read it too slowly and had to pass it on before finishing,... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Nera
SO GOOD! Couldn't put it down.. kind of dark but very interesting.Published 10 months ago by Amber Duffy
If you liked the Goldfinch, you will enjoy this. Ample descriptions flesh out the characters who are all a bit quirky. American in setting and in style. Read morePublished 12 months ago by NewArt