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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.
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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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Ann on 03-06-11


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.

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42 of 43 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By A. Musser on 06-14-16

Terrible narrator, depressing story, slow plot

A friend gifted me this book and warned me that it was weird. I'm having a hard time finding nice things to say about it though. I wanted to like it but right off the bat, the narrator was awful. Her speech patterns and inflection combined with a kind of unusual accent made it hard to focus on the story at the beginning. I hated the voice she used for Bunny so much, every time she used it, I felt myself cringe. Eventually though, like with most audiobooks, I got used to her voice and accent but there really wasn't enough of a delicious story in there to save the book for me.

The author clearly has a deep knowledge of Greek and the classics but since I lack enough knowledge or interest in the subject, I found some of the more academic passages rather tedious. I nodded off more than once listening.

The plot develops so painfully slowly that it wasn't until the book was at least half way finished that I felt like I could even tell someone what it was about. Most of the characters I found unlikable to the point of being annoyed by them. Of the few characters I did have an affinity for, the author reveals some perversions about them that I found made me stop caring about them. I felt like there was ample space to develop deep meaningful friendships and hinge the story on that dynamic but instead the author chose a route that left me not really caring what happened to anyone since their interpersonal relationships with each other started getting uncomfortably awkward.

The story is told from the point of view of one of the characters and his cowing to a stronger personality and his constant sleeping and drinking as he struggled to cope made me stop liking him or really caring what happened to him. In fact, he was never really one of the group and I felt that his outsider status made his decision to protect his friends seem stupid, foolish, and illogical. Once he bought into the plan developed by the strongest personality in the group, I found myself wondering why he'd even consider such a course of action for people he never really fit in with very well. I felt like the course of action the characters take to fix their problems was inanely stupid for such a smart group of people. Without giving too much away for someone that might want to give this book a go, toward the end, the way things fall apart just left me feeling depressed and hoping it would soon be over.

One of my biggest pet peeves is a story that doesn't have a definite ending. While this one does have an ending, I still found it completely dissatisfying. I felt like the author backed herself into a corner with the ending. The way the author handled Henry ended up being predictably dull because as she developed him through the plot, she began robbing him of his trademark cool poise and arrogant self-confidence that should have been traits that propelled him toward a more interesting conclusion.

Finally, I found myself having trouble in my mind rectifying the time period in which the story was set. It seemed to me at first that the story was set much further in the past based on the descriptions provided by the author. However the author then begins to reference more recent events leaving me feel like there was a disjointedness between the time period I felt like the narrative descriptions revealed and the more modern events the author references. It gave the book an awkward feeling for me.

Overall, I made it through the book but I didn't have that yearning to get back to it when I was away from it. My recommendation is that you skip this one. While it isn't the worst book I've listened to, I don't have any desire to seek out additional works by this author based on this first experience with her. I found myself looking forward to finishing it just so I could start something more interesting. There are better books than this one upon which to spend your credit. My advice is to skip this one.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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