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Publisher's Summary

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

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.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,411
  • 4 Stars
    1,030
  • 3 Stars
    581
  • 2 Stars
    205
  • 1 Stars
    135

Performance

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,105
  • 4 Stars
    748
  • 3 Stars
    489
  • 2 Stars
    233
  • 1 Stars
    262

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,335
  • 4 Stars
    800
  • 3 Stars
    444
  • 2 Stars
    157
  • 1 Stars
    102
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ann
  • Orefield, PA, United States
  • 03-06-11

Addictive

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.

38 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Treachery on Campus!

Any additional comments?

This is the 2nd time I've "read" The Secret History (the first time I actually read it). I had to go back and listen to it again because I remember being entranced by the relationship of the main characters. Well, it was even better the 2nd time around. The story lets you know at the very beginning that one of them dies, but the book isn't really about that -- it's about what happens to people after they've committed a horrendous act and they have to live with it. The knowledge that they can't go back and un-do the past. And how it binds them together forever. One person may be dead, but the others will live with the regret for the rest of their lives.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Like Listening to a Dream

Ms. Tartt's novel is an engaging work of art. Many reviewers of this recording have stated issues with the narration, but I thought it was fantastic. Tartt is the perfect narrator for her own work, and she doesn't overdo the voices. The slow, methodical way in which she narrates is perfect for this novel that feels like a dream. Her descriptions are fantastic, placing the reader in the middle of this wintry tale. The only issue I have is with the production of this recording. The white noise, or feedback, is a slight issue, but I've noticed this is an issue with many other recordings as well, especially older ones. However, it is not enough to take away from this captivating work. I suggest listening to this recording in the fall, after the weather changes or in the winter. This enhanced the dreamlike nature of the story for me. The novel is not action packed, but it is tense. It is great. I highly recommend.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • KP
  • United States
  • 07-03-08

Read this, don't listen

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.

129 of 147 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Roslyn
  • Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
  • 09-11-07

wonderful interpersonal relationships

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.

32 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • AJ
  • 07-27-09

Can't get past the narrator

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.

95 of 110 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

compelling, dark and (in parts) funny

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.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • Columbia, TN, United States
  • 03-06-10

Not everyone's glass of Scotch Neat

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.

35 of 41 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Charlene
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 02-23-10

good but not great story; appalling narration

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.

43 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Intriguing story, unfortunate narration.

How could the performance have been better?

She could have hired an actor to narrate the book.

Any additional comments?

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?

40 of 48 people found this review helpful