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1 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

The Secret History

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The Secret History Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. Richard states that he ended up at Hampden College by a “trick of fate.” What do you think of this statement? Do you believe in fate?

2. When discussing Bacchae and the Dionysiac ritual with his students Julian states, “We dont like to admit it, but the idea of losing control is one that fascinates controlled people such as ourselves more than almost anything. All truly civilized people--the ancients no less than us--have civilized themselves through the willful repression of the old, animal self” (p. 38). What is your opinion of this theory? Are we all attracted to that which is forbidden? Do we all secretly wish we could let ourselves go and act on our animal instincts? Is it true that “beauty is terror”?

3. “I suppose there is a certain crucial interval in everyones life when character is fixed forever: for me, it was that first fall term spent at Hampden” (p. 80). Did you have such a crucial interval in your life? What/when was it?

4. In the idyllic beginning it is easy to see why Richard is drawn to the group of Greek scholars. It is only after they begin to unravel that we see the sinister side of each of the characters. Do you think any one of the characters possesses true evil? Is there such a thing as true evil, or is there something redeeming in everyones character?

5. In the beginning of the novel, Bunnys behavior is at times endearing and at others maddening. What was your initial opinion of Bunny? Does it change as the story develops?

6. At times Bunny, with his selfish behavior, seems devoid of a conscience, yet he is the most disturbed by the murder of the farmer. Is he more upset because he was left out of the group or because he feels what happened is wrong?

7. Henry says to Richard, “My life, for the most part, has been very stale and colorless. Dead, I mean. The world has always been an empty place to me. I was incapable of enjoying even the simplest things. I felt dead in everything I did. . . . But then it changed . . . The night I killed that man” (p. 463). How does Henrys reaction compare to that of the others involved in the murder(s)? Do you believe he feels remorse for what he has done?

8. Discuss the significance of the scene in which Henry wipes his muddy hand across his shirt after throwing dirt onto Bunnys coffin at the funeral (p. 395).

9. List some of the signs that foreshadowed the dark turn of events. Would you have seen all the signs that Richard initially misses? Or do you believe Richard knew all along and just refused to see the truth?

10. Would you have stuck by the group after learning their dark secret?

11. The author states that many people didnt sympathize with Richard. Did you find him a sympathetic character?

12. What do you make of Richards unrequited love for Camilla? Do you feel that she loved him in return? Or did she use his love for her as a tool to manipulate him?

13. Do you feel the others used Richard as a pawn? If so, how?

14. What do you feel is the significance of Julians toast “Live forever” (p. 86)?

15. The author mentions a quote supposedly made by George Orwell regarding Julian: “Upon meeting Julian Morrow, one has the impression that he is a man of extraordinary sympathy and warmth. But what you call his ‘Asiatic Serenity is, I think, a mask for great coldness” (p. 480). What is your opinion of Julian?

16. Do you think that Julian feels he is somewhat responsible for the murder of Bunny? Is that why he doesnt turn the group in when he discovers the truth from Bunnys letter?

17. What causes Julian to flee? Is it because of disappointment in his young protegees or in himself?

18. While the inner circle of characters (Richard, Charles, Camilla, Henry, Francis, and the ill-fated Bunny) are the center of this tale, those on the periphery are equally important in their own ways (Judy Poovey, Cloke Rayburn, Marion, and so on). Discuss the roles of these characters.

19. The rights for The Secret History were initially purchased by director/producer/screenwriter Alan J. Paluka (All The Presidents

Men, The Pelican Brief), and they are currently with director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars). What are your feelings about making the novel into a movie? Who would play the main characters if you were to cast it?

20. What is the meaning of Richards final dream?

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400031702
Author:
Tartt, Donna
Publisher:
Vintage
Author:
Tartt, Donna
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Suspense
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Publication Date:
20040413
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
576
Dimensions:
8.03x5.26x.98 in. .89 lbs.

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The Secret History Used Trade Paper
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$9.50 In Stock
Product details 576 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9781400031702 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Enthralling....A remarkably powerful novel [and] a ferociously well-paced entertainment....Forceful, cerebral, and impeccably controlled."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "A huge, mesmerizing, galloping read, pleasurably devoured.....Gorgeously written, relentlessly erudite."
"Review" by , "A smart, craftsman-like, viscerally compelling novel."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Donna Tartt has a real shot at becoming her generation's Edgar Allan Poe....The Secret History pulses like a telltale heart on steroids."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "Beautifully written, suspenseful from start to finish."
"Review" by , "One of the best American college novels to come along since John Knowles's A Seperate Peace....Immensely entertaining."
"Review" by , "Entertaining, evocative first novel."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "Donna Tartt is clearly a gifted writer....She has the ability to leave her literary contemporaries standing in the road."
"Review" by , "A great, dense, disturbing story, wonderfully told."
"Review" by , "[P]recious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful....By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids — while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking...is very 80's — and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic."
"Review" by , "An accomplished psychological thriller....Absolutely chilling....Tartt has a stunning command of the lyrical."
"Review" by , "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."
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