The Secret History

The Secret History

Book - 2004
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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.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Contemporaries, 2004
Edition: 1st Vintage Contemporaries ed
ISBN: 9781400031702
Characteristics: 559 pages ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

When a group of precocious classics scholars at a small east coast college discover bacchanalian ecstasy, it ultimately leads to two murders. A sort of murder-mystery in reverse, this novel explores the devastation these murders have on the group's friendships, and the destruction of the emotiona... Read More »

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May 17, 2020

Over five hundred pages is a long time to spend with such unlikeable, self-absorbed, dissolute individuals who can justify taking human life. Yet I read on through the cloying minutiae of their daily lives, intrigued by where it would end. The story unfolds like a modern Greek tragedy from the prologue to the exodus: family conflict, untimely death, sex, Dionysian excess. Privileged young people, caught up in their special classics program under a charismatic instructor, enact a bacchanal that leads to a fateful event. Henry is the tragic character whose errors in judgement lead to calamitous destruction; none in the group emerges unscathed. The Secret History is well-written and compelling reading, but also a long, drawn out journey that immerses the reader in the misery and downfall of its characters.

Mar 07, 2020

I've read it three times. The first time on publication, a few years after I graduated from university where I'd been a classics major. If you ask how young people can get so obsessed with Greek and Roman culture to the point where they reenact a scene from The Bacchae, just remember youth is the age of greatest enthusiasm for ideas. Look at the Society for Creative Anachronism, if it still exists (there was a chapter on my campus). I still find Tartt's writing to be enchanting, and I don't mind the pages devoted to the hero's dorm mates who don't advance the story but who possess a certain wacky charm.

Apr 02, 2019

Great thriller that really took me back to university days - not that ever fell through a roof, or killed one of my classmates...twitch. Beautifully realised setting, delicately described relationships and clever - though not too literary- language. A psychology of the effects of murder on all the perpetrators. Ticks all the boxes.

Feb 14, 2019

For me much resistance at first but in the end up late not being able to put it down. Perhaps fueled by emotional energies ready to demonize old money and other elites. The Times review is on the money. (, although there might be at least a redemption light for one character.
The length of the book might point to respect for the author's first work, which this is. Like many other works, the concluding pages update the reader on subsequent developments in the life of the characters. That this extended to some that played very minor roles is indicative of something.
Full of food for thought but I wouldn't go as far as one has here to planning an annual read.

Nov 27, 2018

The Secret History is the gateway into the world of dark academia. It's dark tone and thoughtful, introspective narrative make it a heavy read, but a worthwhile one. It has a fairly slow pace that makes you pay attention to the details to get an understanding of what’s going on. It’s use of rich imagery and poetic descriptions gives the reader a vivid idea of people and places. All of the characters are complex and feel very real in how they behave. The progression of the plot flows in a natural way from one event to the next. The bits of wisdom about life, intelligence, people, love, and beauty that are interwoven throughout the story changed the way I view things in my life. Overall, reading this book felt like a spiritual experience and left me feeling an echo of the story for days. 5/5
- @nickreads of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Oct 25, 2018

This book makes me nostalgic for a cold, picturesque college campus I never went to--eternally shrouded in fog. It has a timeless feel for a specific time I can't quite place (I often had to remind myself that it was not set in England earlier in the twenteith century). I want to read it near a fireplace in the dark of winter, every year. The characters are real and gripping. You may be unsure of who to dislike or love, but you will be sure to eat up every last word even though you won't want it to end.

Oct 22, 2018

A whodunnit that tells you on the very first page who did it...but you'll want to find out why it was done!

WestSlope_TheaH Aug 21, 2018

Donna Tartt’s suspenseful and atmospheric 1992 debut novel is a murder mystery set at a private college in New England. I highly recommend this story to fans of Tana French’s The Likeness; both stories share a keen understanding of the dynamics of tight-knit groups of twenty-somethings. Tartt’s writing is character-driven, compelling, and stylistically complex. The Secret History is a bestseller and has a cult following. Tartt went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her 2013 novel The Goldfinch.

Jul 23, 2018

Having struggled through "The Goldfinch", I decided to read this story due to the author's command of the English language and character development. The story provides tremendous insight into the thinking process of the elite viewed through the eyes of a 'commoner' coupled with darkness and incest. Tratt is a gifted storyteller and in my opinion this story is superior to Goldfinch in many ways. Having met someone that encountered her at a book signing, it comes as little surprise her characters come from old money, which I always find fascinating. Regardless this is a story well told and highly recommended.

May 24, 2018

Fantastic book. Well-developed characters and extremely fast-paced. Couldn't put it down. For anyone who likes well-developed and literate writing

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Aug 04, 2017

actually they're studying ancient Greek, and their social bond is a sense of superiority over the other students as well as local working-class people, and they do horrible things over the course of 1 school year, told from point of view of an incoming freshman who pretends to be rich like them because he admires their inhumane snobbery and is bored and ashamed of his own background.

Jun 01, 2016

Six college friends become more closely connected through their secluded study of Latin, but all they believed to be true about one another and their intentions crumbles when a series of unpredictable events spirals out of control.


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Aug 19, 2015

VV12 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Aug 18, 2015

Other: incest


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Jun 02, 2016

"Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation."

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