The Secret History by Donna Tartt

78%

20 Critic Reviews

...The Secret History, a murder mystery in reverse which (like Hitchcock's film) starts with the crime, and then tantalizes the audience not with "who done it" but rather the more unsettling question of why...This is Tartt at her best, deliciously blending the abstract and concrete, the theoretical and the practical...
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, established herself as a major talent with The Secret History, which has become a contemporary classic.

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Donna Tartt

See more books from this Author
Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History and The Little Friend, which have been translated into thirty languages.
 
Published October 19, 2011 by Vintage. 546 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Crime. Fiction
Bookmark Counts:
2
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Secret History
All: 20 | Positive: 16 | Negative: 4

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids--while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking...is very 80's--and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic.

Read Full Review of The Secret History | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Aug 07 2015

Tartt's much bruited first novel is a huge (592 pages) rambling story that is sometimes ponderous, sometimes highly entertaining. Part psychological thriller, part chronicle of debauched, wasted youth, it suffers from a basically improbable plot...readers may enjoy the pull of a mysterious, richly detailed story told by a talented writer.

Read Full Review of The Secret History | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Mullan on Oct 18 2013

Every one of the millions who have read The Secret History has the delicious illusion of being admitted to the most dangerous of confidences. It is as if her every reader is the first and only one to read it.

Read Full Review of The Secret History | See more reviews from Guardian

Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Nov 28 2008

...The Secret History, a murder mystery in reverse which (like Hitchcock's film) starts with the crime, and then tantalizes the audience not with "who done it" but rather the more unsettling question of why...This is Tartt at her best, deliciously blending the abstract and concrete, the theoretical and the practical...

Read Full Review of The Secret History | See more reviews from Blog Critics

Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Bianca Chamusco on Jul 08 2010

The novel is a compelling account of a harrowing descent into evil; if the book leaves you feeling poisoned and complicit in the crimes immediately after you finish it, be forewarned: this feeling may never leave you. This one grabs you and never lets you go...Highly recommended.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Entertainment Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by L.S. Klepp on Sep 04 1992

Tartt uses the crime and its consequences for the slow revelation of character — most tellingly that of Professor Morrow. If the novel has a central theme, it is the perils of detached aestheticism...this is still an elegant, edifying work of art; even Plato might approve.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

The Independent

Below average
Reviewed by Natasha Walter on Oct 31 1992

And style is confused with substance time and again throughout her novel...Clearly, in future works Tartt should stay off the intellectual poses, the spires and roses and fluttering white scarves - the 'gloomy boudoir' of Richard Papen's dreams, as she puts it - and try to touch base more often in the ordinary world she loves to hate.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Heather P on Aug 08 2015

I cannot even describe to you how this book held me and stayed with me long after I had finished reading it...Throughout the book, you are on edge, uneasy, and on the verge of some great discovery which continually eludes you. Deep, dark, intense words cannot convey the experience of reading this book. Read it for yourself.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Brothers Judd

Good
Reviewed by brothersjudd on Jul 27 2015

Donna Tartt's outstanding first novel, written while she was a student at Bennington, is a terrific mystery and, I think, an insidious look at the pathologies of the modern university...However you interpret the story, it's a rewarding reading experience.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

http://www.bookdrum.com

Good
Reviewed by Johanna Trew on Jul 26 2015

Murder, jealousy and revenge define this contemporary ancient tragedy...No other book paints college life quite like this. Instead of parties and drugs, Tartt's students indulge in erudite classical banter and dangerous Bacchic ritual. Shocking, cerebral and brilliantly absorbing all at once.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

http://www.bookdrum.com

Good
Reviewed by johannatrew on Jul 26 2015

Donna Tartt's The Secret History is one of my all-time, desert-island, top-favourite books. I've lost count of the number of times I've read it, and each time I notice something new, and get something different out of it. The gripping, page-turning narrative is extraordinary...

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Fyrefly's Book Blog

Above average
Reviewed by fyrefly on Aug 13 2010

As a psychological sketch of people falling apart in the aftermath of such a crime, it’s masterfully done, and Tartt’s writing is wonderful at catching and evoking the claustrophobic atmosphere, but I just felt like there was never enough actually happening to properly call it a thriller.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Things Mean a Lot

Good
Reviewed by Ana S on Oct 02 2009

We are told in the prologue of The Secret History that there has been a murder...We are also told who is responsible...Don’t think for a second, however, that this makes The Secret History any less suspenseful...There’s also the writing, which I loved; the dark and Autumn-y atmosphere...But above all, I loved it for the characterization.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

She Reads Novels

Above average
Reviewed by Helen on Mar 16 2013

I’m glad to have finally read The Secret History...although I did enjoy it I was not as enamoured with it as so many other people have been. I wonder if maybe I would have liked it more if I’d read it when I was younger and closer to the age of the characters in the story.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Booking in Heels

Good
Reviewed by Hanna W on Nov 13 2013

...this modern classic ended up being one of the best written and enigmatic books I've read this year...All in all, I love the formal but clever tone and the aura of darkness that surrounds the story. There are lots of twists and secret revelations, but it's the stunning prose that really makes The Secret History what it is.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

It's Time to Read

Good
Reviewed by Katie on Jan 03 2012

I thought this was a fascinating read. It gives a glimpse into a crazy college world – filled with drink and drugs. It shows how people can be influenced by teachers and what they are taught...This is an exceptionally well written book and very enjoyable. I would highly reecommend this book – even if I did find the beginning hard!

Read Full Review of The Secret History

A Good Stopping Point

Good
Reviewed by Christy on Apr 17 2011

I had high expectations for this book, based on the praise I had read. As far as the writing is concerned, my expectations were certainly met...While it can be certainly dark, suspenseful and psychological, as befits the plot, The Secret History also has passages of dreamy atmosphere and sharply observed social scenes.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

http://www.ciao.co.uk

Excellent
Reviewed by Galien on Oct 06 2003

The novel is of a much higher grade than most, the characters are superbly written and the plot is gripping...For lovers of fiction, classics and thrillers this is a must read book. The beauty with which the story is told is both touching and haunting...

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Backlisted

Good
Reviewed by backlisted. on Oct 02 2012

The Secret History is a page-turner, start to finish. From Richard’s captivating opening revealing the death of Bunny and the partial scope of the investigation...As an exercise in authority, control, and the perceived allowances made within certain social hierarchies, The Secret History is an accomplishment—a Greek tragedy in its own right.

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Ms. Wordopolis Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Rebecca on Sep 04 2013

While I enjoyed the book this time around, a few things about it wore me down in its over 500 pages...Besides those criticisms, I’m still very impressed with The Secret History. It’s a very vivid story that captures the academic world and friendships in college quite well, and the mood definitely grabbed me as well...

Read Full Review of The Secret History

Reader Rating for The Secret History
78%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 3219 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

User Review

Brian Lee Kloosterman Jr. 17 Feb 2013

Rated the book as 4.5 out of 5

User Review

Patrick Priore 3 May 2013

Rated the book as 3.5 out of 5

Julia Linde

Julia Linde 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

Katrina Bernardo

Katrina Bernardo 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

×