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)
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.
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.
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.
I downloaded this book not long after I listened to Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. I really enjoyed The Little Friend and, up untill the last fours hours or so, I really enjoyed The Secret History. The story kept building up and then, to me, after Bunny's murder, fell short. The book could of been at least 100 pages shorter and for a while I couldn't tell where the story was going to go, it just seemed to go on and on... and I couldn't wait for it to end.I didn't mind Donna Tartt's narration at all which is something others complained about...I would suggest The Little Friend before The Secret History, but, then again, they both are so completely different but they both are well written (if not a little....or a lot....drawn out)
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.
The narrator. Although she did a great job developing the characters, her dialect made it hard to listen. How? She speaks with a Southern Accent, yet none of the characters are from the South. Note, I am from a Southern State and I found this rather distracting.
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'd give this a 5 star if it weren't for the reader - the slightly "off" accents, the controlled lisp - although she's an excellent writer, Tartt should leave the reading to someone with more skill.
The story, rich in detail and wonderful character development, is intriguing and very well done. I may have found a new favorite author to explore in print.
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.
I am relatively new to the audiobook scene, but I don't need a lot of audio listens under my belt to recommend this book. The plot is fascinating and the characters so well developed. The author's narration is excellent...I was disappointed when the 21 hours were over. Every aspect of this selection was a winner.
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