I loved this book. It has everything: beauty, unrequited love, betrayal, mystery and murder. This book reads like a classic. I kept flipping to the copyright page to make sure it was written in 1992. I thought the story was much older. The characters were believable, if you have ever been in a dormitory type setting you will see what I mean. Every time I thought that the author could not put another twist, I was wrong. As you get to the end you read faster and faster to find out what happens, I could not put it down. I ride the bus to work, while reading this the ride went by so fast. Usually I kind of know where I am but this book took me straight to Vermont. Time would pass and I would not know where I was. I highly recommend this book.
The characters in this book all exhibit a very dark side, yet at the same time you feel great empathy towards the young narrator Richard Papen who gets caught up in something that quickly spirals beyond his control. A vivid and original take on the "college" novel.
From the beginning, you know who dies. The rest of the book is a gentle unfolding of why and how and the entire who. I thought this would be a terrible mystery, but was really surprised at how much I cared about the various characters and their activities. No one was what he/she appeared at different times, and all, including the victim, were greatly flawed. That did not make the story less charming or intriguing, and Tartt did an admirable job of portraying a group of folks who didn't quite fit in with the average campus, but who made their own mini-society and lived and died by it.
Was not expecting this book to be what it became...it is one of my favorites so far. As others have said, it is a little slow in the beginning, and a few of the characters you wanted to just roll your eyes at. But a very good suspensful book.
The story is set at an Ivy League college on the Eastern seaboard, among an small exclusive group of people who study the Greeks. Theory takes the place of reason and the mystery begins. Who is part of the tight cycle and who will be the victim? This is a believable and tight suspense novel by a quality writer.
I ordered this book because it had so many good reviews, but I am disappointed in it. This is probably a generational issue since I am 81 years old and had difficulty relating to the main characters. To my mind, the main characters had very little morality or a sense of right and wrong. In addition, they all had enough money to over indulge in practices which diminished them further( drugs and drunkenness).
To my mind they are living a totally useless life; studying useless courses in Ancient Greek and translating philosophy which does not necessarily apply to this age and time. The worst thing of all in this book is that they murder two innocent people and have no conscience about it, and when the book ends there has been no punishment for the mortal sin they have committed. Other readers have loved it. I didn't . Genny
I was completely hooked on this story until about the half way mark, but the author just continued to draw it out for so long, I lost steam and had to force myself to finish it. If it was 150-200 pages shorter, it would have gotten 4 to 5 stars from me.
This book was not for me. It is excessively wordy and in my opinion is trying to be something it is not as in attempting to become "literature" rather than a paperback to be enjoyed. I couldn't get through the first chapter and of course if I gave it more of a chance maybe I could have gotten through it, but honestly it lost me so much in those pages that I didn't want to give it a chance!
The book was very good in some areas, although it seemed a bit dated. It's set in 1982, and written in 1992. I actually found myself disliking the author/narrator for making condescending comments like "He had such a nice touch with the common people," who were apparently anyone who didn't attend the third rate college where most of the alumni "ran shops selling hippie paraphanalia." The relationship with the professor, which was supposedly so pivotal, was never really fleshed out. Tartt wrote little about him, and even less of his interactions with the students, while other less important relationships were incredibly overwritten.
I couldn't help but compare it to the Rule of Four - also about a group of college friends studying the classics. If Rule of Four is a 10, this book is a 3.
Ok, so this book was referred to me by a friend who found a link to three "must read books". I had already read one of the 3, which I liked, so I ordered the other two. This one was a disappointment. I found it tedious and morally corrupt. The characters are pompous, self important and out of touch with the real world. This may be true in some small liberal arts schools this book purports to describe but I found this did not ring true with my reality. Anyway, I hope this helps someone save time a find a truly good book.
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 they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last-inexorably-into evil.
This was suggested to me by my fiance. He had actually never read it but had heard good things about it. He was right, I did love it. It was a surprisingly clever and had one or two decent plot twists. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a light read.
Book one had me intrigued. Book two put me to sleep.
Her descriptions are so rich and vivid- not to mention relentless- they actually ruin the story. An amazing first book for such a young writer, but this certaily isn't a classic.
Flashy, prententious, irksome.
The book starts out promising--in the prologue, Richard, the protagonist, reflects back on the death of Bunny, a fellow classmate who died after Richard and his friends pushed Bunny off the top of a ravine. Then Richard, a California boy, takes the reader back to when he decided to go to college out east. This is where the story bogs down. I wasn't sure how long I could continue reading before finally throwing in the towel. I think it was around page 140 that the story STARTED to be a little more interesting.
Why I wouldn't recommend this book:
1. Way too long. The author was often overly descriptive. She took a long time at the start describing the various things Richard did upon his arrival at Hampden. Most of those experiences didn't really add anything to the story. The Greek stuff (the students talking about Greek philosophy, etc.) wasn't particularly interesting and added nothing to the story. An editor should have cut the book down quite a bit. The story could have been told in about 300 pages.
2. None of the characters--from the core group to the secondary ones--were particularly likeable. Bunny, especially, was despicable--loud, boorish, no shame in taking advantage of others, etc. I'm surprised someone didn't kill him off long before this. The Greek group--as well as many of the secondary characters--constantly drank and did drugs.
3. SPOILER ALERT: The death of the chicken farmer, which triggered the eventual killing of Bunny, seemed a little farfetched. The twins (Charles and Camilla), Henry, and Francis had spent several days trying to replicate a bacchanalia, a celebration from Greek antiquity, and the chicken farmer ended up dead. In the epilogue, we learn what happened to the central characters a few years after Bunny's murder. There is no mention that the farmer's murder was still unsolved. The reader can assume it was unsolved because none of the central characters were arrested. But, it would have been appropriate to include something about the status of that case. END OF SPOILER
4. As others have noted, it was hard to know in what time period this story was set. It clearly was before cell phones became common because no one in the story had a cell phone. The copyright date is 1992 so presumably sometime prior to that. However, it was unclear if this was in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s.
Like the story, I could go on and on and on but I don't feel like wasting any further time on it. Safe to say, I won't be reading any of the author's other books--one and done!
I absolutely adored Tartt's other novel, The Little Friend, and I had high hopes for this one too. I was not disappointed. The novel tells the story of five students at an elite New England liberal arts college. All of the students are tremendously, unusually devoted to their studies, and this devotion leads them to tragedy as they murder first, an outsider, and then one of their own. The fact of the murders is not the suspenseful part of the plot. Indeed, the murder of one of the group's own is revealed on the first page. Rather, the interest, intruige, and suspense comes in how the students cope with the knowledge of what they've done. Their suspicion, fear, and even some remorse wreak havoc and lead the group to an even more tragic climax. The main characters in this book are Classics students, and indeed, the book itself reads much like a Greek tragedy, with precipitous decline, and knowledge thereof.
Donna Tartt is a phenomenal storyteller. She creates plots that are deep, rich, and complex. Much like The Little Friend, The Secret History is a highly psychological book. I was absolutely gripped by this book from beginning to end.
Richard Papen hails from a a modest California family. He has no money of his own and his parents see no need for college but he obtains a scholarship to attend a private New England college. Richard is an unusual young man who enjoys studying Greek but finds he is unable to enroll in such classes. Through a fluke, however, he encounters students discussing Greek in the library. As he listens he realizes that he can offer some insight into the discussion. These students are enrolled in the Greek classes closed to him. So begins his entry into a group whose studies are totally controlled by the Greek professor.
The characters, most of whom are self-centered from wealthy families, have wonderful depth. The author builds tension slowly by blending character actions day after day until something happens. Someone is killed accidentally during a Bacchian rite with which the group was experimenting. The involved vow to keep it secret, not even telling Richard for a long period. This is the beginning of a tragic scenario that sets individuals against one another. So the five become six who are removed from other students. They are self-absorbed and arrogant intellectuals obsessed not only with stkudying the language but about the culture of ancient Greece. Richard becomes intimately involved with the others, so that he, too, feels the impact of not one death, but two. The novel skillfully paints the lives of each individual following these terrible actions. Can there be justification and remorse from those involved. Although long, this is a most compelling read as one
turns page after page to see what happens next.
The book explores friendship in great depth from belonging and being accepted to what sacrifices we make to attain and keep a friendship. What do we gain from good friends and what happens when those friendships wane? The author explores the deepest emotional impact of it all with a cast of six college students. This is a most remarkable read.
Before I started reading this book, I was told it was supposedly pretty good. The whole time I was reading it I was expecting this great story but I found myself being bored and forcing myself to finish this book. It wasn't extremely horrible, there were some good parts in the book, mostly at the end.
It took me a long time to read this book. I can usually finish a book in 2 - 3 days. This book took me about 10! I kept reading to find out what was going to happen, but I didn't really care what was going to happen. If I stuck to my rule, I would've stopped reading at page 50, but I stuck it out. I don't know if I would've missed anything or not, probably not. It wasn't as great as the other reviewers are making it sound. It was just an o.k read.
Richard Payton arrives at collage in New England and immediatley becomes suduced by the charms of campus life. When Richard becomes part of the "in" group, he learns of a secret that binds them all together. A secret of an ancient rite that was brought to life...and that was the beginning.
An great psychological thriller.
Narrator Richard Papen comes from a lower-class family and a loveless California home to the "hermetic, overheated atmosphere" of Vermont's Hampden College. Almost too easily, he is accepted into a clique of five socially sophisticated students who study Classics with an idiosyncratic, morally fraudulent professor. Despite their demanding curriculum (they quote Greek classics to each other at every opportunity) the friends spend most of their time drinking and taking pills. Finally they reveal to Richard that they accidentally killed a man during a bacchanalian frenzy; when one of their number seems ready to spill the secret, the group--now including Richard--must kill him, too.
I loved this book and all of Donna Tartt's work so far. Slower pacing means more imagery, more characterization, more suspense. These people felt so real to me, it was incredible. Great read, great page-turner!
Enjoyed this much more than "The Little Friend," but this was far from perfect. TONS of loose ends, plus the main characters get away with murder- literally- and don't seem too remorseful. This book unfolds slowly with a great deal of foreshadowing. I feel I did not catch all the clues or hints sprinkled throughout and I plan to reread this again.
One of the more interesting aspects of this book is the "time warp" feeling; even though the events take place over a year, time seems to be stagnant. THis is further emphasized by the fact many of the main characters dress, speak and act like they are from another decade, if not another century. The exact timeframe of the novel is never disclosed, though it is probably the 1980's (or before cell phones became popular).
A 19 year old gets into a small college in New England and becomes friends with a group of five Greek scholars. He finds out about a secret that happened to those friends and is drawn into their circle. Interesting book but a bit long.