In this brilliant debut novel, Donna Tartt gives us a richly textured and hypnotic story of golden youth corrupted by its own moral arrogance.
Richard Papen had never been to New England before his 19th year. Then he arrived at Hampeden College and quickly became seduced by the sweet, dark rhythms of campus life - in particular by an elite group of five students; Greek scholars, worldly, self-assured, and at first glance, highly unapproachable.
Yet as Richard was accepted and drawn into their inner circle, he learned a terrifying secret that bound them to one another; a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning.
©2002 Donna Tartt; (P)2002 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"A mysterious, richly detailed story told by a talented writer." (Publishers Weekly)
"An enthralling story....The Secret History is addictive. Chances are you won't be able to listen just once." (AudioFile)
"Powerful....Enthralling....A ferociously well-paced entertainment." (The New York Times)
"Tartt's voice is unlike that of any of her contemporaries. Her beautiful language, intricate plotting, fascinating characters, and intellectual energy make her debut by far the most interesting work yet from her generation." (The Boston Globe)
One of the few books I've listened to that I really couldn't stop listening! Very different from what I expected and not at all the typical murder mystery. The tragedy of murder is heightened by the fact that it is done by the protagonists. The story is not so much about the murder(s) but rather the emotional and psychological effects on the murderers.
My only complaint is that, because this is an audiobook, some of the foreign language phrases were hard to understand or even try to translate (sometimes none was given). I do much better if I can see the words rather than hear them, and, if so driven, I could have looked up the meanings. So I may have lost some of the intricacies of the story during these moments.
Avid reader, picky about narrators.
I liked this audiobook much more than I expected to - in fact I just finished listening to it a second time. I've read THE SECRET HISTORY as a book and was doubtful about having the author doing the narration: in my experience, there are good readers and good writers and not many people who are both. Donna Tartt is one of those few. Her natural accent is engaging in the descriptive passages, and she makes the different characters voices in dialogue distinguishable without resorting to violent changes in pitch and pattern. A couple of her character voices (Bunny and Julian) are a smidge over-drawn, but it's not distracting because although they are both major characters, they have among the fewest lines of dialog.
And that brings me to what I like so much about the way the book is written. Its absent influences are really compelling (Richard's parents, for example, and Leo the landlord) are significant players whom we never actually meet. They're described, and they're quoted in the third person, but they never appear to speak for themselves. This literary device is rarely sucessful, but as Donna Tartt deploys it, it works a treat.
Similarly, the unreliable narrator -- Richard -- is compelling. Again, this device is tricky and often transparent, but Tartt works it skilfully.
The majority of the novel is dark-ish and thinky, but there are a couple passges that are laugh out loud funny: the feral cat on the long car ride, for example, and the "test your illicit drug knowledge" game show scene. Dark humor indeed. Those bits might not be to everyone's taste, but they had me laughing helplessly.
I could nitpick -- there are a few asides in foreign languages that aren't translated, and that's annoying as heck, and the novel ends about four times (just when you think it's done there's another coda, and that goes on for about 20 minutes) and these quibbles cost the book a star. Overall, though, I think this one's well worth your time and credit.
The narrator's (author's) voice ruined this one for me. The story was interesting and well-researched if rather farfetched. However, I couldn't get past the fact that neither voice nor accent matched who the characters were supposed to be. I'd read it, not listen to it.
It doesn't seem to ever be a good idea to read your own work. I took a chance, and just couldn't listen to this. The narration is so off-putting as to be distracting (to me, anyway). An interesting premise that might have been a good story, but I just couldn't get past the presentation.
I absolutely love audiobooks. There is simply nothing like having someone read you an engrossing story; not to mention you can get things done while you listen. I always have one on the go.
This book was just superb. The story was extremely strong and engrossing. If, like me, you are a murder mystery fan but appreciate a long in depth story with good character development and realistic human relationships this book is for you.
If I had known Bunny in high school, he would have never made it to college. I would have already killed him and his annoying leeching ways before any ACT or SATS. I thought the book was well written and was easy to follow. However, the clique of scholars was annoying, and drank like a UT fraternity during Greek Week…. but they did it daily. That would explain the lack of brain cells that made these Greek scholars refer so often to Dante, an Italian writer. The narrator did not annoy me as she has some others. She created the characters and I feel she knew what their voice should be. This one is one you either like or hate. All of its faults considered, I liked it.
The story is a little bit Heathers, a little bit The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Reminded me a great deal of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Unlike the narrator in Calamity Physics, though, there's no suggestion that this character is a genius - and yet, we are expected to believe that with only 2 years of non-exclusive Greek language study, he has read not only ALL of Plato in Greek, but a wide array of other classical literature. It would have been forgivable, I think, had the narration not been so absolutely godawful. The voice of Bunny is a high pitched nasal whine, like a voice someone would make while mimicking someone annoying and ineffectual. Everyone else sounds more or less alike - slightly nasal, with hints of a southern accent. I'm on the fence about whether I'd recommend this. The story is interesting, although some of the details are pretty unbelievable. But the narration is grating, at best.
Attention Authors! You are authors, that is your profession and your specialty. PLEASE do not try to be a professional narrator! Fans of your work wait a long time for your books to come out and it isn't fair to the listeners to have the book compromised by poor narration! You are authors not professional narrators. Let them do the narrating and you do the writing and every one will be better off for it. This is twice this year that I have listened to great books by great authors who for some reason feel they should be the narrator and in turn make the listening experience a tough listen to endure.... With that said, If you listen to Donna's "Goldfinch" THAT WAS AWSOME NARRATION!
The story was compelling and a great story to follow however I kept feeling like the big plot twist was right around the corner and it never came. by the end of the book I felt like the entire story turned out to be fairly predictable.
She could have hired an actor to narrate the book.
Even though the story was intriguing the narration was not. I can not comprehend why Donna Tartt would narrate her own book, her voice could be shrill and annoying at times. I could also hear what sounded like street noises in the background, did she record the audio in her livingroom?
If you're familiar with Donna Tartt's work (notably, last year's Pulitzer Prize winner, Goldfinch), you will not be shocked to hear that this is a well-written, but darker read. Ms. Tartt loves to explore the lives of vulnerable coming-of-agers placed in situations which challenge and eventually change them. This story is no different as the reader/listener is introduced to Richard, a young man completely out of place in the very "yah" environment of an elite liberal arts college in New England. He falls in with a group of peers within his cult-ish Ancient Greek program and enters a world of privilege, literary elitism, and, eventually, murder.
The story follows one year of his studies at the university and deals with how each character internalizes/externalizes their crime, from Richard's perspective. Ms. Tartt's writing is simply marvelous and her ability to capture experiences from the mundane (removing a pair of glasses) to the general (sights, scents, schedule of a college student) to the hypothetical (what is the perfect crime?) to the paranoid (are you hiding something from me?) takes the reader out of his/her reality and into the life of Richard and his peers.
On the downside, I simply didn't like many of the characters. They were, frankly, people I would have avoided in college. It became a little hard to lose yourself in the story when you truly weren't rooting for anyone.
Additionally, while I HATE to dissuade other authors from taking on the task of narrating their own novels, I have become accustomed to professionals and found it somewhat distracting hearing a southern woman read the roles of males. Furthermore, some of her "voices" changed my impression of the characters (notably, a fatherly character for whom she adopted an almost coquettish, high-pitched voice more appropriate for a 5-year-old girl or dying grandmother), in ways that did not correspond to their characters' roles.
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