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The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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Characters in The Secret History
"For Bret Easton Ellis, whose generosity will never cease to warm my heart; and for Paul Edward McGloin, muse and Maecenas, who is the dearest friend I will ever have in this world."

Book Description

Richard Papen had never been to New England before his nineteenth year. Then he arrived at Hampden College and quickly became seduced by the sweet, dark rhythms of campus life - in particular by an elite group of five students, Greek scholars, wordly, 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.

An impressive debut novel from a new voice in fiction, The Secret History tells of a small circle of friends at an esteemed college in New England, whose studies in Classical Greek lead them to odd rituals, shocking behavior - and murder.


This novel is set on a small college campus in Vermont. Dissatisfied "with the crass values of their fellow students, a small corps of undergraduates groups itself around a favored professor of classics, who nurtures both their sense of moral elevation and an insularity from conventional college life that ultimately proves fatal. Among Prof. Julian Morrow's followers are Henry Winter, a tall scion of a wealthy St. Louis family, ... the twins Charles and Camilla Macaulay, both intellectually gifted and eccentric only in their excessive mutual devotion; Francis Abernathy, a dandyish homosexual slowly awakening to his sexuality; and Edmund (Bunny) Corcoran, ... {who} becomes the group's victim." (NY Times Book Rev)

In the secret history of a small town

Lies a tale of passion, obsession, and power

Where a group of elite students

Gather in secret to pursue their dark desires

In this world of privilege and excess

Where beauty and knowledge reign supreme

A deadly chain of events is set in motion

As betrayal and murder tear them all apart

In the end, only the truth remains

A shocking revelation that will change their lives forever

And leave them forever haunted by their past.

by Donna Seaman
This is a first novel of exceptional subtlety and suspense, featuring a haunting cast of characters.

Somewhat reminiscent of "Dead Poet's Society", a bit gothic, and inlaid with sophisticated psychology, it takes place on and around the campus of a small, private, Vermont liberal arts college.

When Richard, a native of a small, dull California town, arrives at Hampden College to study Greek, he's startled by the changeability of the weather, the brooding skies, and brilliant autumn.

Thoroughly alienated from his parents, he lies about his past, hoping to impress the tight-knit, wealthy, secretive, and tantalizingly eccentric group of classics scholars studying under the direction of influential mentor, Julian Morrow.

Henry is tall, erudite, and frighteningly calculating. Francis is gay, sly, but affectionate. Bunny, an awful mooch but quite endearing, looks like Teddy Roosevelt and spouts a great deal of nonsense punctuated by exclamations of "old man" and "see here."

Camilla and Charles are twins - cool, attractive, and charming.

As Julian steeps his disciples in Greek thought, they become obsessed with an overwhelming desire to experience telestic madness, that is, Dionysiac frenzy.

Their pursuit of this exalted, catastrophic state leads to conspiracy, subterfuge, murder, and suicide.

Tartt's prose is flawless and enthralling: keyed-up, humming with detail, graced with nuance, and electric with the malevolence of self-righteous amorality and an insulated and heartless form of intelligence.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  ++ Click to view larger image ++The Secret History
Alfred A. Knopf
First Edition
523 pages
August 1992
ISBN: 0679410325

Read Reviews Reviews 1

The Secret History by Donna TarttThe Secret History
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0670848549 | 3148
The Secret History by Donna Tartt [hardcover]The Secret History
Penguin Books
New Edition
672 pages
July 1, 1993 198 x 129 mm
ISBN: 0140167773

The Secret History by Donna Tartt [paperback]The Secret History
Ivy Books/Ballantine
Reprint Edition
Mass Market Paperback
503 pages
September 1993 1.13x6.84x4.21 in
ISBN: 0804111359 Read ReviewsReviews 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  ++ Click to view larger image ++ The Secret History
October 1993
ISBN: 0804111359
The Secret History by Donna Tartt [reprint edition paperback]The Secret History
Ballantine Books/Fawcett
Reprint Edition
Trade Paperback
523 pages
September 1996 1.14x9.22x5.34 in
ISBN: 0449911519

Read Reviews Reviews 1
The Secret History by Donna Tartt The Secret History
Penguin Books
672 pages
September 7, 2000
ISBN: 0140294589
The Secret History by Donna TarttThe Secret History
Penguin Books
ISBN: 4794006993
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  ++ Click to view larger image ++The Secret History
Random House
2 Cassettes
3 hours September 1992
Abridged version read by Robert Sean Leonard
ISBN: 0679410570
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  ++ Click to view larger image ++The Secret History
2 Cassettes
3 hours October 15, 2002
Unabridged Edition read by Donna Tartt
ISBN: 0060518049

"Robert Sean Leonard has appeared in such films as Mr. and Mrs. Bridge and The Manhattan Project and was critically acclaimed for his performance in Dead Poets Society." - Random House
"I enquire now as to the genesis of a philologist and assert the following:
1. A young man cannot possibly know what Greeks and Romans are.
2. He does not know whether he is suited for finding out about them."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Unzeitgemasse Betrachtungen
"Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in storytelling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes."
- Plato, Republic, Book II

Continuum Contemporaries series: Donna Tartt's "The Secret History": A Reader's Guide Continuum Contemporaries series: Donna Tartt's "The Secret History": A Reader's Guide Tracy Hargreaves Continuum International Publishing Group, Incorporated Paperback 96 pages September 1, 2001 ISBN: 0826453201 American Society of Magazine Editors National Magazine Awards - 2001 National Magazine Award Finalists

for "The Glory of J.F. Powers", by Donna Tartt, July.

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Your Comments

A book I plan to come back to again and again...

Again breathtaking

I have read it at least seven times. It gets better every time.

Both Donna`s books are inspired and to be treasured.


I have read The Secret History countless of times. 20, at least.

*****ing fantastic!!!! the best book in the world

I always come back to it.

I first read it ten years ago when it was first published, and haven't found a better book yet!

I have lost count how many times I have read this book. Definitely over 20. It is my favourite book.

I have nothing to say...just to feel

i read it last summer, and started again this summer. it's becoming a tradition

I'm addicted to it.

in 2 1/5 months...i thought i was alone in my obsession till i found this wonderful site!

It is a book I pick up quite often though I don't necessarily start at the beginning every time.

my favorite book

only read it once, but I want to read again!

I pick it up and read different sections every now and then.

This book changed my life.

It was great. I couldn't put it down.
12:49 am, thursday, july 15, 2004

A total waste of time. Would rather have my fingernails ripped off then to have to read this piece of drivel again.
9:11 pm, monday, august 23, 2004

Wonderful. Gripping and suspenseful, though it does take a certain type of person to read it. Absolutely loved it, and will return to it many times in the future.
9:47 am, monday, october 18, 2004

It's like watching a David Lynch series or movie. *****ing awesome!
5:40 am, thursday, november 4, 2004

I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading this (I had to study this with reference to "The Bacchae") and it was amazing. Absolutely amazing. Cannot wait to read the next one.
3:51 pm, friday, february 18, 2005

It was very exciting! I always get a special mood when I read it. Sometimes it's strange, cosy, warms me up and also freezing. Fantastic. Aaaand... FRANCIS RULEZ!! happy
10:30 am, wednesday, april 19, 2006