Reviews

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

depressingreads's review against another edition

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dark mysterious reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

lynnly's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional mysterious reflective sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25

emly_1234's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional informative mysterious sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

I can’t even 

fr3y's review against another edition

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adventurous dark mysterious reflective tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

Don't be scared by the number of pages 

fnurn's review against another edition

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challenging dark mysterious reflective sad tense slow-paced

4.0

As good as this was, it did indeed walk so If We Were Villains could run.
We're a lot closer to the drama in IWWV, where as Richard is unfortunately playing catch up a lot of the time.

soraiacosta's review against another edition

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challenging dark slow-paced

4.25

squidgy_ish's review against another edition

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dark mysterious reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

biblio_'s review against another edition

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1.0

The cover of my edition states that this novel is "Enthralling..." which I would say is correct, assuming you find watching paint dry to be enthralling.

I was fascinated by the premise of The Secret History. A group of 5 pretentious Classics students at a small liberal arts college in the Northeast who find themself entangled in a murder scandal. I'd been wanting to pick this book up for quite some time but unfortunately, the disappointment set in early on.

The pace of this book is incredibly, incredibly, innnncredddiblllyyyy slow. The plot is well, nonexistent. The book was 559 pages and about 400 of them were the students drinking alcohol, doing drugs, traveling from one location to another, drinking coffee around the table while eating breakfast, and occasionally, studying and speaking in Ancient Greek. Once a combination of these events had occurred bits of the story would peak through and you as a reader could start putting the pieces together. Whether or not something actually happened was never directly stated, but merely insinuated.

For those who don't mind slower plots and enjoy lyrical prose, this book might be for you. Furthermore, Richard Papen, the protagonist, reminds me a lot of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye so if you enjoyed that novel, you may also enjoy The Secret History.

The book, unfortunately, was far too slow for my tastes and you can only read the same sort of scene over and over again before you start becoming very bored.

v_r_n_'s review against another edition

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5.0

Keiner der Charakrer sympathisch, aber der Schreibstil ist einfach genau meins. Das merkt man daran, dass die Handlung nur so dahin plätschert, nicht wirklich viel 
passiert, aber ich trotzdem total hinein gekippt bin, in diese Welt mit illustren und geheimnisvollen Charakteren.
Bunny ist einfach ein furchtbarer Mensch und sein Tod ist überhaupt nicht traurig.
<Spoiler>Was ich nicht verstehe, warum Richard überhaupt beim Mord an Bunny dabei ist und sich generell so involvieren lässt. Weil er sonst niemanden hat? Weil er so beeindruckt von den anderen ist und sich ihnen verpflichtet fühlt?</Spoiler> Das was die Charaktere untereinander verbindet kann man ja kaum Freundschaft nennen.

Fazit: Hype gerechtfertigt 😌


<Spoiler>
... Die Landmenschen hier in der Umgebung sind faszinierend, weil ihr Leben so determiniert ist, dass es wirklich von einer Art Fatum bestimmt zu sein scheint... 

... dass die Vollendung des Fortpflanzungszyklus in der Natur ausnahmslos ein Vorbote des raschen Verfalls und des Todes sei...

... Was man nicht denken kann, kann man auch nicht tun...

... An der Liebe zur Schönheit ist nichts auszusetzen. Aber Schönheit ist sofern sie nicht mit etwas Sinnvollerem vermählt ist - immer nur oberflächlich...

... Die Toten erscheinen uns im Traum, sagte Julian, weil sie nur so sichtbar für uns werden können: Was wir sehen, ist eine Projektion, ein Strahl aus weiter Ferne, Lichtschein von einem toten Stern...

</Spoiler>

nofinersteiner's review against another edition

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4.0

A long, literary book about everything and nothing. In some ways, the entire book was spent with five people perpetually drunk and smoking cigarettes. In others, they went on their own little Odysseys.

In some ways, the characterizations reminded me a lot of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, in that all characters acted situationally, rather than adhering to some strict set of traits that they had. It made all six characters: Richard (narrator), Francis, Henry, Bunny (dead), Camilla and Charles both amorphous and real. They were difficult to assign a quality.

The way that Tartt writes about regret, guilt, and the subconscious is excellent. She talks about splitting and being "found out" in ways that felt palpable and real. And the book never felt like a chore to read. It moved quickly, despite being too long. That said, the actions of this book primarily consist of drinking, smoking cigarettes, and walking across campus, sweating. Richard didn't clean his sheets like, once. And everyone came in and sat on his nasty bed! But I suppose that's how Tartt grounds you in the day-to-day moments. The language can be big and true, and small and unnecessary.

It's such a long book. It doesn't need its length. But still, I find it successfully reaches for a lot: Richard's jealousy and desire to fit in, group think and dynamics, money and wealth and power, secrecy, reaching for some kind of ecstatic understanding or sublime to escape that little voice in their own heads, guilt and conscience, those darn Greeks and Romans whose words still haunt us. Grief and performance of grief. "Beauty is terror." "Beauty is harsh." The queerness in this book is not a subject but a part of its paranoia and secrecy.

Is this book romanticizing the Classics? and the Erudite way they lived? Or is it satire of its ridiculousness? Making fun of their egos and their inflated senses of selves and their money?

Poor Bunny. The dude died not because he blackmailed them or stole their money, but most of all for the most unforgivable sin of being fucking annoying. And he was fucking annoying.

Re-reading Julien's Socratic Method about madness and Bachanae at the conclusion of the book is worthwhile. It ties the whole thing together. I really thought he would be a bigger presence in the book, at least in terms of dialogue. For the amount of influence and devotion he inspired particularly from Henry and Richard, he isn't all that big a part of this book. Just a benevolent and wise guy at their periphery. I wish there was more of his lectures in this book. I would've fallen for it just like they all did.

Craft-wise, the split between Book One and Book Two rocked. They felt like different entities: one about conspiracy and academia and unease; the other a full-on dissolution into paranoia and coping. Fear and enactment of those fears. The changes of setting: idealistic college into a frozen winter into dark Bacchanae into murder scene into community grieving, anxiety, the tension on the campus, and finally the dissolution of all the characters into their worst impulses.

It's prob 3.5/5. I liked it but I wish I was wowed by it. I can already sense that there's some criticism and lore behind this book. That the way it's talked about will make it more interesting or memorable. Which I will dive into now.