Customer Reviews for

The Secret History

Average Rating 4
( 147 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(82)

4 Star

(34)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(8)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

Most Helpful Favorable Review

15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

An Outstanding Literary Work

What makes 'The Secret History' such a compelling book is its daring to examine the consequences of the arrogance of intellectual superiority, something I struggled with in my youth, something which I sometimes find myself struggling with today. Those of us who...
What makes 'The Secret History' such a compelling book is its daring to examine the consequences of the arrogance of intellectual superiority, something I struggled with in my youth, something which I sometimes find myself struggling with today. Those of us who were products of accelerated academic programs, who fell under the auspicious acronmym AP (for Advanced Placement) often felt removed from our peers and masked our underlying feelings of inferiority as erudite superiority. It is a defence mechanism many of us used when young,and sometimes continue to use as a means we tell ourselves of making us feel better about who we are. The students in TSH, even the sympathetic narrator Richard Papen, exemplify these ideas and the impulses these feelings cause them to act out are shown as having the direst of moral consequences to which they as a group and individually must answer for. The pleasures of intellectual stimulation coupled with the psychological underpinings of the deed done and how it is played out give TSH its literary resonance. In addition the book provides a builti in mystery of its own--namely the literary future, or if there is to be one, of its author, Donna Tartt. Upon a first reading nearly ten years ago, I embraced TSH and Donna Tartt as a voice I wanted to hear more of--a voice which has been noticeably and mysteriously silent, which has only served to build up the legend, and rumors of an impending second novel sometime next year. This remains to be seen but TSH continues to remain a book I turn to time and again for its exploration of moral arrogance and the destruction such attitudes can incur.

posted by Anonymous on May 7, 2001

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review

Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

A Reader from Minneapolis

Much ado about nothing. Competent writer but this book doesn't imho live up to the hype.

posted by Anonymous on December 31, 2002

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 147 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 8
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2001

    An Outstanding Literary Work

    What makes 'The Secret History' such a compelling book is its daring to examine the consequences of the arrogance of intellectual superiority, something I struggled with in my youth, something which I sometimes find myself struggling with today. Those of us who were products of accelerated academic programs, who fell under the auspicious acronmym AP (for Advanced Placement) often felt removed from our peers and masked our underlying feelings of inferiority as erudite superiority. It is a defence mechanism many of us used when young,and sometimes continue to use as a means we tell ourselves of making us feel better about who we are. The students in TSH, even the sympathetic narrator Richard Papen, exemplify these ideas and the impulses these feelings cause them to act out are shown as having the direst of moral consequences to which they as a group and individually must answer for. The pleasures of intellectual stimulation coupled with the psychological underpinings of the deed done and how it is played out give TSH its literary resonance. In addition the book provides a builti in mystery of its own--namely the literary future, or if there is to be one, of its author, Donna Tartt. Upon a first reading nearly ten years ago, I embraced TSH and Donna Tartt as a voice I wanted to hear more of--a voice which has been noticeably and mysteriously silent, which has only served to build up the legend, and rumors of an impending second novel sometime next year. This remains to be seen but TSH continues to remain a book I turn to time and again for its exploration of moral arrogance and the destruction such attitudes can incur.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 8, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A great read for those who love to explore the human psyche

    Richard Papen grew up in Plano, CA; a small silicon village in the north. An only child, he was extremely unhappy there¿his father ran a gas station, and his mother had to join the work force to make ends meet. After high school, Richard went to a small college in his hometown¿against his parents wishes¿and studied ancient Greek on his way to a pre-med curriculum. <BR/><BR/>He excelled in Greek, not so in biology and science classes. One night during a long Thanksgiving Holiday, he finds in his room a brochure from Hampden College, Hampden, Vermont, established in 1895.<BR/><BR/>For the hell of it he applies and is accepted after getting a huge package of financial aid. <BR/><BR/>So he gets on a bus and arrives in Vermont. <BR/><BR/>As he tries to pursue his Greek studies, he encountered a roadblock¿the Greek professor: Julian Morrow, who only takes a few students.<BR/><BR/>He out of curiosity decided to find and study these particular students. Two of the boys wore glasses, curiously enough the same kind: tiny, old fashioned, with round steel rims. The larger of the two, well over six feet, was dark haired, wore English suits and carried an umbrella¿unusual for Hampden¿his name was Henry Winter. The smaller of the two, was a sloppy blond boy, rosy cheeked and gum chewing. He was Bunny Corcoran¿short for Edmund¿and he wore the same jacket everyday and had a voice that was loud and honking.<BR/><BR/>The third boy was the most exotic of them all. Angular and elegant, precariously thin, with nervous hands and a shrewd albino face with a short fiery mop reddish hair. Francis Abernathy was his name.<BR/><BR/>The last two turned to be twins¿they looked much alike, with heavy dark blond hair and epicene faces as clear, as cheerful and grave, as a couple of Flemish Angels. Their names were Charles and Camilla Macaulay.<BR/><BR/>Richard, overhearing an assignment by the group in the library, is able to solve a Greek problem, so he is invited to join the group.<BR/><BR/>As it turns out, Julian Morrow is, like Aristotle, a complete education teacher. Richard is forced to quit all his classes, except French and Julian will teach him all of his curriculum for the year.<BR/><BR/>The book is short on plot¿as a matter of fact, the plot is given away in the two page introduction. The group kills Bunny Corcoran.<BR/><BR/>But what it lacks in plot, is overwhelmed by character development. Donna Tartt is able to get inside these people¿s heads to a point where we feel we are there with them. We know what they do, what they think, why they drink; what they like and dislike about each one of them¿and how they interact as a group, which will explain why they did what they did.<BR/><BR/>These are confessions, years afterwards of a young man who found at a small Vermont college the life of privilege and intellect he¿d long coveted¿and rarely has the glorious experience of youth infatuated with knowledge and with itself so achingly realized. <BR/><BR/>Hugely ambitious and compulsive readable, this is a chronicle of deception and complicity, of Dionysian abandon, of innocence corrupted by self love and moral arrogance; and finally this is a story of guilt and responsibility.<BR/><BR/>A great read for those who love to explore the human psyche.

    11 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2004

    Standout Fiction

    THE SECRET HISTORY is that rarity published in recent years, a mainstream novel that deals with murder but not the usual ho-hum mystery formula. I was drawn into Richard Papen's slide into the small clique of classics students majoring in Greek, improbably taking no other courses but French in a small Vermont private college. Never fitting in other settings, Richard seems a perfect fit here, though his blue-collar background contrasts to the wealthy background of the other five. The coin is fluency in Greek, and the group considers themselves set apart by their intellectual superiority. Though one member is far from an intellectual, and his position becomes increasingly precarious after a mysterious killing of a local farmer prods him to blackmail and snipe at the others he is sure killed the man. Richard is the observer, who becomes an accessory to murder, under the spell of the group's leader, who is determined to conceal their crimes at all costs. Mesmerized by the leader's rationalization that the first killing was an accident--or was it?-- Richard goes along with the plan for a second murder, drifting with the others from the first in a haze of constant heavy drinking combined with drugs taken as a matter of course. While college students --at least some of them--certainly did drugs in the Eighties and probably still do, every character major or minor in the book is stoned and recklessly drunk on top of that. No one dies of this, a miracle; and such bright students in the Greek major seem to be drunk or on their way much of the time--not terribly intellectual, though bright people often drink to excess at times. Not even Richard can work up actual horror at news of the first killing, or resistance to the plan to cover up by killing the second victim, chiefly because said victim's needling gets more and more annoying. Yet this reader, usually repelled by conscienceless characters, was unable to put the book down, wanting to know if they will get away with it, wanting to know what Richard--who hasn't actually committed either murder--will do in the end or if he will end up in prison for his complicity in abetting and concealing the crimes. The alarmingly plausible leader's essential evil is slowly and skillfully revealed by the author, who turned out a literate and vivid work of prose in THE SECRET HISTORY. The end had one small flaw, hard to understand the leader's action in the climax. It didn't seem in character. But the book was haunting and involving, and I'll look for more of Donna Tartt's work.

    7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2002

    A Reader from Minneapolis

    Much ado about nothing. Competent writer but this book doesn't imho live up to the hype.

    7 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2011

    Quite literally one of my favorite novels ever

    I read it 3 years ago and im back looking it up hoping to find some clues to another, similar book. I have found some people seem to not like it and that baffles me. Great mystery, suspense. I was genuinely sad it was finished when it was over.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    Recommended for characters & style

    A really tense mystery; well-defined characters. You want to reach out and implore them to stop. Intelligence and narcissism and exclusivity and wealth and bored youth are a dangerous mix.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 29, 2011

    For those who want to root for the heroine but hope they get hit in the end!

    Sex, Murder, and Mystery, rich spoiled college kids take life for granted and ends up screwing it all up. Everyone has had that loathing at some point when you just wish that reality will slap someone in the face that really deserved it. Well here's your chance! Donna Tartt shows us the lives of Henry, Francis, Richard, Charles, Camilla, and Bunny and with such finesse describes the life in a Vermont college for these spoiled snobs. But wait...the characters tend to come to life thanks to Tartt's writing and we really hope that things work out for them in the end, but part of us just wants to drop an anvil on their heads! The descriptions that Tartt provides are incredible to say the least and the period of winter helplessness that Richard experiences chills you to the bone. "This was, I should say, about the third week in January. The thermometer was droping; my life, which before had been only solitary and miserable, became unbearable. Every day, in a daze, I walked to and from work, sometimes during weather that was ten or twenty below, sometimes during storms so heavy that all I could see was white, and the only way I made it home at all was by keeping close to the guard rail on the side if the road. Once home, I wrapped myself in my dirty blankets and fell on the floor like a dead man. All my moments were not consumed with efforts to escape the cold were absorbed with morbid Poe-like fancies. One night, in a dream, I saw my own corpse, hair stiff with ice and eyes wide open." I actually had to dress warmer while reading his experience in a cold dark apartment. Throughout the book you know Richard will witness some shocking discovery of what is really happening, and thanks to Tartt again this isn't just dropped on us suddenly. She rather slowly reveals each secret such subtleness that it builds to the climax in a way that you feel for these characters even though they are such selfish snobs. This is one of my favorite reads this year and will reside on my shelf for years to come.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2012

    An enigmatic, entrancing read

    The Secret History is an enigmatic blend of psychological thrills, an astoundingly complex, but realistic plot, and a rich vocabulary not often found in this day and age, wrapped in the wonder of Greek poetry and language. Upon my arrival of Julian's study room, I was instantly transported into a world shrouded in mystery. One characterized by dimly-lit lamps and persian rugs. By whispered betrayals behind callous-free hands and the eloquent discussions of one well-versed in the philosophies of the ancient world. Reading Tartt's work of literature was a quite enjoyable experience as she merged a world long gone with the one presently existing. She showed us beauty by kissing death. Showed us horror through fascination. She took all the elements of loathing, passion, revenge, morality, enlightenment, and unthinkable acts and mixed them around and around until you can no longer discern one from the other. Until you see that beauty and terror are one and the same. Not only does Tartt expertley portray this, but she does so with her uncanny ability to bring her characters to life, so that they might walk off the page at any given moment. If I was to summarize the plot right at this very moment, you would wonder at the sanity of the characters. However, should you read this literature in its entirety, you should find yourself just as confused and scared as the murderers themselves. I should like to reiterate one last time the beauty of the language used. I feel that much of our language today has been greatly reduced and watered down from, say, Shakespeare's age. A time when the crafting of words was regarded as an art form. With this novel, I believe Tartt was able to recapture some of that beauty that so many of our more recent novels have been missing. I truly loved this novel and find it completley worthy of the accolades it has recieved. This is not a light read, but if you're willing to endure a few late nights and a few hours lost sleep, I promise this is a book you won't want to put down.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    What a disappointment

    This book had such buzz, frankly I thought it was just awful.
    Not one character did I like, the story was dull, the writing was stifling.

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2011

    Awesome!

    Donna Tartt is a very gifted story teller. This book will amuse you, shock you, stimey you, and anger you. A real page turner. I highly reccommend it.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    Sunsetsky to lionroar

    It is true that youve been ignored for like ever but ive always been fond of you and i think that you shouldnt be ignored i promise that i wont ignore you again and im sorry if you feel ignored by other cats its their loss

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 25, 2014

    So So

    Slow going, almost gave up on it. Read it because of a review of the sequel that interested me but now not sure about trying to read that.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    If you loved "The Goldfinch", you will like this...

    Another--and her first--thrilling story you cannot put down! And yes, a lot of ingredients are similar: an immature young man with incompetent parents, interesting bad friends, a distinguished older mentor, lots of drugs, love, betrayal, suspense, tragedy, unthinkable actions...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Sophisticated, smart, and suspenseful

    This complex novel is slow-moving at times, but it is very rewarding. If you like this book, check out Carol Goodman's Lake of Dead Languages. Follow me on twitter!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2014

    I really liked it

    I had high hopes for this book going into it, and wasn't disappointed. The storytelling was lush (I didn't even mind it being 800 pages), the descriptive passages stellar. Some of my friends were not happy with the book: there wasn't enough character growth to warrant the commitment. However, for me, I kept expecting it to get darker and bleaker at every turn, and was relieved to find it wasn't worse than what it was. Very absorbing read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This is a stunning work of a literary novel. I devoured this boo

    This is a stunning work of a literary novel. I devoured this book in just two days. The characters in the book a rightfully endearing, very entertaining, that will have you swept away in the pages in no time. The professor is a delightful secretive person, who shares little with his students he seems to harbor for his own accord and doing. Donna Tartt, writes with such charisma and grace, she should be on every bookshelf in the world.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    A work that is the slowest moving piece of literature, that I ha

    A work that is the slowest moving piece of literature, that I have slogged through. Others may relish the relish the overly descriptive passages, but I found that it covered up the poor plot development. The author created a confused sense of time and place. Quite frankly, it is a disgusting story about disgusting people. About 75 pages into this drivel, I wished every character ceased to exist.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    The Secret History

    ...was a compelling read that made me feel like a character inside the the story, living it, sweating it out. Great writing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 5, 2014

    Was totally immersed in the plot.

    Totally engrossed in the story, love her descriptive phrases. Great character development, held my interest throughout.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2014

    Sux

    Easily 150 pages longer than necessary. This could have been a good book IF there had been a good editor.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 147 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 8