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The Secret Historyby Donna Tartt
A New York Times Notable Book
Synopses & Reviews
Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable.
As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning....
"Powerful....Enthrallling....A ferociously well-paced entertainment." The New York Times
"A smart, craftsman-like, viscerally compelling novel." Time
"An accomplished psychological thriller....Absolutely chilling....Tartt has a stunning command of the lyrical." The Village Voice
"[A] first novel of exceptional subtlety and suspense, featuring a haunting cast of characters....Tartt's prose is flawless and enthralling: keyed-up, humming with detail, graced with nuance, and electric with the malevolence of self-righteous amorality and an insulated and heartless form of intelligence." Booklist
"A thinking-person's thriller....Think Lord of the Flies, then The Rules of Attraction....The Secret History combines a bit of both — the unmistakable whiff of evil from William Golding's classic and the mad recklessness of priviledged youth from Bret Easton Ellis's novel of the '80s....As stony and chilling as any Greek tragedian ever plumbed." New York Newsday
"[A]n elaborately conceived and artistically ambitious thriller....Tartt records the aftereffects of unpunished crime with great skill. But her efforts to transform a chronicle of suspense into a study in sensibility are less successful....Tartt offers the aroma of decadence, not its anatomy; stylish intimations of misbehavior, not visions of hell." The New Republic
"A long tale of friendship, arrogance, and murder knit together with the finesse that many writers will never have....Her writing bewitches us....The Secret History is a wonderfully beguiling book, a journey backward to the fierce and heady friendships of our school days, when all of us believed in our power to conjure up divinity and to be forgiven any sin." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The great pleasure of the novel is the wonderful complexity and the remarkable skill with which this first novelist spins the tale. And a gruesome tale it is....A great, dense, disturbing story, wonderfully told." Cosmopolitan
"Donna Tartt has invested this simple and suspenseful plot with a considerable amount of atmosphere and philosophical significance....She's a very good writer indeed." The Washington Post Book World
"Beautifully written, suspenseful from start to finish." Vogue
"One of the best American college novels to come along since John Knowles's A Seperate Peace....Immensely entertaining." Houston Chronicle
"[A] work of occasionally irritating pretension that is mostly redeemed by its simple virtue as a gripping read....Where it parts company with even the best of its campus colleagues is in the clever evolution of its first-person telling, its many magnificent pages of description and its refusal to let the parochial environs of its setting limit the exploration of its characters." Andrew Rosenheim, The New York Times Book Review
"Donna Tartt is clearly a gifted writer....The cadence of her sentences, the authority with which she shaped 500-plus pages of an erudite page-turner indicate she has the ability to leave her literary contemporaries standing in the road....The decision to murder has about it the inevitability of classical Greek tragedy." The Miami Herald
"Donna Tartt has a real shot at becoming her generation's Edgar Allan Poe....The Secret History pulses like a telltale heart on steroids." Glamour
"[W]ell-written....The book's many allusions, both literary and classical...fail to provide the deeper resonance of such works as Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Ultimately, it works best as a psychological thriller." Library Journal
"Tartt's voice is unlike that of any of her contemporaries. Her beautiful language, intricate plotting, fascinating characters, and intellectual energy make her debut by far the most interesting work yet from her generation." The Boston Globe
"A beautifully written story, well-told, funny, sad, scary, and impossible to leave alone until I finished....What a debut!" John Grisham, author of The Firm
"The Secret History implicates the reader in a conspiracy which begins in bucolic enchantment and ends exactly where it must — though a less gifted or fearless writer would never have been able to imagine such a rich skein of consequence. Donna Tartt has written a mesmerizing and powerful novel." Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City
The first novel by Donna Tartt, author of the National Bestseller The Goldfinch, The Secret History is 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.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Storytelling in the grand manner, The Secret History is a debut remarkable for its hypnotic erudition and acute psychological suspense, and for the richness of its emotions, ideas, and language. These are the confessions, years afterward, of a young man who found at a small Vermont college the life of privilege and intellect he'd long coveted - and rarely has the glorious experience of youth infatuated with knowledge and with itself been so achingly realized. Then, amazed, Richard Papen is drawn into the ultimate inner circle: five students, worldly and self-assured, selected by a charismatic classics professor to participate in the search for truth and beauty. Together they study the mysteries of ancient Greek culture and spend long weekends at an old country house, reading, boating, basking in an Indian summer that stretches late into autumn. Mesmerized by his new comrades, Richard is unaware of the crime which they have committed in his dreamy, unwitting presence. But once taken into their confidence, he and the others slowly and inevitably begin to believe in the necessity of murdering the one classmate and friend who might betray both their secret and their future. Hugely ambitious and compulsively readable, this is a chronicle of deception and complicity, of Dionysian abandon, of innocence corrupted by self-love and moral arrogance; and, finally, it is a story of guilt and responsibility. An astonishing achievement by any standard, The Secret History immediately establishes Donna Tartt as a supremely gifted novelist.
About the Author
Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is also the author of the novels The Goldfinch and The Little Friend, both of which are international bestsellers.
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