The Secret History

By Donna Tartt,

Book cover of The Secret History

Book description


'Everything, somehow, fit together; some sly and benevolent Providence was revealing itself by degrees and I felt myself trembling on the brink of a fabulous discovery, as though any morning it was all going to come together---my future, my past, the whole of my…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked The Secret History as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A murder cover-up in the Classics department of an elite liberal arts college. Tartt reveals the murderer on the first page. The Secret History is riveting crime fiction because it understands the most compelling element isn’t “whodunnit”, but “why?” What follows is Greek tragedy, at once immersive and compulsively readable. I wish it would never end because it’s not the kind of novel you read to find out what happens. You read it because you want to live in its world forever. For the way it comes to aesthetics with awe and terror. The supernatural crashes in only…

From Adrian's list on crime with supernatural overtones.

Set in a fictionalized Bennington College, Tartt’s alma mater, it dramatizes what one guesses is her own college experiences as a part of a group of precocious undergraduates, and makes them into a context for murder. I found that this is a weird and relatable book and will appeal to anyone who has been part of a group that explicitly or implicitly feels itself to be superior.

You wouldn’t normally think of the college campus as an ideal setting for a riveting psychological murder mystery thriller, until of course you read The Secret History and then can’t imagine the campus as being anything but. Creator (or at least popularizer) of the “dark academia” literary sub-genre, Tartt gets inside the ideas-filled heads of a group of classics students at a small liberal arts college and shows how a little wisdom can take you to some strange and disturbing places. You’ll want to start studying some of those really deep ideas on your own even as she spells out…

From Andrew's list on the college campus and its craziness.

Some books have such a strong sense of place that I'm sad when I finish them because it means I can no longer be in that world. All Donna Tartt novels are like that for me, but especially The Secret History. A student named Richard Papen tells about his friendship with five other students at a private college and the events leading up to the death of a boy named Bunny Corcoran. I love stories about elite colleges and the fraught intensity of young adulthood. Add in class issues, social striving, and an inverted detective plot, and I'm hooked. 

From Joy's list on ruthless social climbers.

I didn’t read this one with a book club, but I really wish I did! The moment I put it down, I wanted to discuss it with someone. At times there’s a sinister, cult-like storyline that you just have to figure out and yet want nothing to do with, at others it’s a relatable group of characters you just want to invite over for a cup of coffee and help them straighten out their lives. In other words, this book has loads for you to talk about. 

The Secret History is my go-to recommendation for friends who are experiencing a reading slump and looking for a book they won’t be able to put down. I’ve loaned my copy to a dozen people and they’ve universally loved this novel, which opens with a murder and then unfolds in reverse. Tartt immediately draws readers into the privileged world of students at a Vermont college and explores how the desire to fit in with the “cool crowd” can have terrible, even deadly, repercussions. 

When I read a novel and certain images and incidents stay in my mind indefinitely, I know I’ve digested something akin to a five-course feast rather than a fast-food meal. Most of Donna Tartt’s novels are this way, but none more than The Secret History, a story that begins with a young man fulfilling his dream of getting away from a small California town and going off to college in New England. The tale, however, quickly spirals into psychological turmoil when the main character learns a terrifying secret shared by an elite group of Greek scholars. Tartt is a…

This secret society novel about tight-knit students at a liberal arts college is the ultimate in “Is it just a group of really intense friends? Or is it a very small cult?” Tartt’s writing is sprawling and atmospheric, yet somehow also has the breathless intensity of a page-turner. No wonder the devotion this book inspires is in itself a little cult-like.

If I could adapt any book into a movie, this would be the one. I love everything by Donna Tartt, but this one remains my first and my favorite. I reread it probably every 5 years or so. When this book came out, YA wasn’t an official genre in publishing yet, and this is an example people give of a book that would have worked as a YA novel. Richard meets a group of Classics students and their charismatic teacher and is let into their secret fellowship. The book sucks you into a group of characters you long to be…

From Suzanne's list on secret societies.

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