am 2. Januar 2001
Donna Tartt's first (and only) novel is, in my humble opinion, one of the most exciting books of the 20th century! It's one of those rare books that is both, intelligent and thrilling! I had to read it in one go, getting hardly any sleep during those days, yet always hoping that it wouldn't be finished too soon! Set in an New England élite college, 'The Secret History' manages to introduce the reader to the world of ancient Greek mysticismon the basis of a modern-day murder mystery.Ms. Tartt's writing is so elegant and powerful, yet so thrilling it takes your breath away.I bought this book shortly after its initial release in 1992 almost by accident: I was waiting for a plane in Frankfurt airport and decided to buy a book in the airport bookstore. Somehow the cover of 'The Secret History' caught my interest. And what a surprise... Since then, I have read this book 3 times and it never failed to thrill and enthrall me, time and again.Highly recommended, a definite must-read !!Matthias Gumz - Berlin, Germany
The book is exceptionally well written and has an interesting plot with remarkable characters that keep your interest to the very end. It is told in the first-person perspective by a young college student from a a humble background who becomes a member of a clique whose members are from a a better social class, well, at least some of them. Their privileged background doesn’t really help their characters and morals, so very soon a murder occurs which needs to be covered up. The reader learns early on about the murderers so the tension lies, among other things, when the murderers will be discovered. Nothing is, however, that easy or even what it seems. The author keeps you guessing till the end, but then the novel is more about the moral depths in all of us than a simple tale of murder and cruelty. Very recommendable.
am 27. Juni 2000
The Kirkus review is way off the mark, the usual drivel in search of profound statements. I don't know what he/she has been reading, but I will say, this is a story which reaches to the primal streak in all our souls. The story is fantastic. The detail is worthy of Michener but focused entirely around emotions and affairs of the mind of people, those elusive, rational yet clearly unpredictable qualities all of us are afraid of revealing or even thinking for fear we could get get comfortable with being the monsters we know humans are capable of. The story revolves around the fallacies of life, the follies of thinking, and the lines of so-called normality we all brush up against and fear we might cross. And this book lays out those fears, that indeed, in a different time and place, we are all capable of not only seeing the demons inside us most clearly but embracing them to act uncivilly in the most civilized manner. A great read, but be prepared to have a more than passing knowledge of Classical history. A good reference to the Classics will be helpful, for many of the references serve only to underscore the truly barbaric nature from hence we all sprang. On a different note, being from Vermont I was a tad dismayed with the apparent lack of knowledge of the area displayed by the author, which took away from the credibility of the story. Another failing on the part of the author and the editor(and contradiction) to clearly establish the time period. If it's the early to mid 60's (which is the right time frame for the feelings and practices) then there are at least three references which cause someone who pays attention to that consternation (I know, it's only a story!) I'll still give it 5 stars, and hope I never visit the depths of my mind as these characters do.
am 11. Dezember 1999
I read this book the summer after it came out and it changed the way I look at contemporary literature. The characters are well-developed and you learn to know them as if they were your friends down the street. Eventually, as if you've known them for years. The descriptive details that Ms. Tart uses paints the scenes beautifully. She truly captures the feel of each season as the book unfolds. I have two copies of this book. I read it every winter and it reminds me that the contemporary literature isn't dead yet. Those who don't like this book, i'm going to guess, may lack the skills to comprehend the many references to popular culture and classical literature and art. For those of you clued in and intelligent, you'll wish you'd have found it years ago. A read you won't put down until it's finished, this book is for unpretentious, well-read intellectuals who think most books that are written today are simple formulas by people out of touch with the real world. The Secret History is written by a brilliant young writer for clued-in young readers, simply put. If you don't understand this novel, you probably weren't supposed to. And please, please Donna Tart: Those who read this book and feel it, are patiently awaiting your second novel.
am 3. September 2014
Richard ist nicht glücklich zu Hause. Seine Eltern interessieren sich nicht sonderlich für ihn und als er dann auch noch Zukunftspläne schmiedet, die mit denen seines Vaters nicht übereinstimmen, entziehen sie ihm jegliche Unterstützung sowohl finanzieller als auch persönlicher Art. Er ist also völlig auf sich gestellt, als er im College seiner Wahl eintrifft. Sein Augenmerkt fällt auf einen Kurs, der sich mit griechischer Geschichte auseinandersetzt und zu dem nur einige Auserwählte, vorzugsweise gut situierte Schüler Zugang finden. Mit einer Notlüge verschafft er sich das Ticket und sieht sich plötzlich aufgenommen in den elitären Zirkel um Professor Julian Morrow. Die Gruppe lernt nicht nur gemeinsam sondern verbringt auch fast jede freie Minute zusammen, so dass Richard, isoliert vom Rest der Studentenschaft, eine Welt kennenlernt, die nicht nur für ihn neu und geheimnisvoll ist.
Auf den ersten Blick erwartet man eine Studenten-Internatsgeschichte, wie man sie schon oft gelesen oder im Kino gesehen hat. Nicht nur einmal hatte ich das Gefühl etwas Ähnliches schon vorgesetzt bekommen zu haben. Doch der Schein trügt hier gewaltig. Die Autorin erzählt in einer ruhigen entspannten Art und Weise, die gut unterhält und angenehm zu lesen ist. Allerdings baut sich die Dramatik langsam aber stetig auf, ein ungutes Gefühl schlich sich ein, und, nachdem ich bemerkte, worauf die Handlung hinauslief, war es mit dem wohligen Anfangsgefühl auch schnell vorbei. Wie es Donna Tartt anstellte, dass ich mich zeitgleich unbehaglich und in der Geschichte gut aufgehoben fühlte, ist mir ein Rätsel. Sie erzählt aus objektiver Sicht, scheinbar ohne Wertung und verzichtet mühelos auf offene Kritik. Dies alles überlässt sie dem Leser, und Haltung zu beziehen ist nicht immer einfach. Aber man muss sie einnehmen und wenn man dies tut, findet man keine Ruhe mehr.
„The Secret History“ ist kein actiongeladener Thriller, der blutrünstig auf den Leser losgeht und dennoch fällt es schwer, die Gedanken selbst in Pausen von dem Lesestoff zu lösen. Ruhig und ich möchte fast sagen in einem heiter wirkenden Tonfall wird eine beklemmende Geschichte erzählt, die noch lange nachhallt und nicht nur das Leben der Protagonisten nachhaltig verändert.
am 23. Dezember 1997
There is no question that Donna Tartt is a writer of great talent. She masterfully creates her characters and vividly potrays their isolated world. The mystery is well-paced and makes reading this book a very intense pleasure. Perhaps "pleasure" is not quite the right word, however, because my ultimate feeling from this book was deep depression. The characters are revealed as vapid, egocentric, spoiled rich kids with no moral compass whatsoever, and -- for all their academic brilliance -- too ignorant to realize their fundamental weakness. Tartt's detailed description of the characters' downward spiral into alcohol and drug excess demonstrates a powerful talent. Unfortunately, "The Secret History" uses that talent to present a story that is both troubling and depressing. I have read far less talented writers who succeeded in identifying, examining and explaining noble aspects of the human spirit. There is none of that here. Perhaps that is why the book has remained so long on my mind: I wonder what Ms. Tartt could do if she focused her enery on a broader world -- the world beyond the snobby, amoral world of privileged preppies and their wannabe hangers- on.
am 5. November 2002
One of the most fascinating books I' ve ever read. Sometimes it's cruel, then, in a way it's really funny. A mixture of a teenager story and a deep view inside human being. You need a long breath but it's really worthy.
It's entertainment and a really good story.
am 20. März 2000
The Secret History is a wonderful, literate book that I wish I had written. I didn't know that you could sell a novel that had Greek phrases in it, nor one that showed the pleasure of the life of the mind. I think the Kirkus reviewer completely missed the boat; he or she expects everything to be a start-in-mid-action, technothrilling, no-stopping for reverie bolt. This is an old-fashioned, langorous exploration of Richard Papen, who longs to be one of the elite Greek class clique, but when he does get adopted by these erudite, witty scholars, he discovers that they have held a bacchanal and have fallen prey to the Devil's dilemma (in other words, they tried this wild fantasy to see if a bacchanal could work, went into a frenzy, and killed a farmer in the frenzy--then were trying to keep another friend who had guessed their secret from revealing it.) I thought the story was wonderful, and I was jealous of his entree into the clique before it started to self-destruct. Henry is a gentle, kind, intellectual, amoral soul who has gone astray and lost his modern-man humanity, becoming like the cold Greeks with their pure logic and lack of remorse for certain acts. Richard doesn't lose his humanity, but does lose his illusions and his idealism when he realizes that his friends are only human, and perhaps a bit less than that, for all their brilliance. Richard is the moral compass of this story, but he fails in his destined mission to prevent the others from killing Bunny to keep their secet, and he sees Julian the idol has feet of clay. I guess I can't really tell you to get this book unless you are like me, a lone intellectual among a world of rednecks and people who make fun of readers and writers who would have loved to see this story turn out differently, who would have liked to hear that there is not just a thin line between genius and insanity. But there is, I suppose, and this book tells about how it might happen. Chantal Fox
am 22. Dezember 1998
There are a number of reasons that The Secret History has been one of my favorite leisure-reading selections for several years (and I have to admit that I re-read it periodically, typically devouring it in 2 or 3 nights). I think Donna Tartt's greatest gift lies in her ability to create a story that has the suspense and sales appeal of a mainstream bestseller AND a tremendous richness of texture, with a bit of philosophical and intellectual weight thrown in for good measure (granted, the book's not as deep as some people claim it is, but compared to the flimflam put out by authors like Robert Jordan or Tom Clancy or John Grisham, it's practically a college curriculum wrapped up into a single volume!). Ms. Tartt can create a mood and evoke a setting like no other popular writer I can think of, and I find her descriptive powers, her dialogue, and her attention to detail to be irresistible. I went to college in the late '80s, and I was a lower-middle-class kid from central Texas who wound up in an Ivy-league institution that, although it wasn't nearly as insular or uniformly snobbish as "Hampden"/Bennington College, had its fair share of decadent preppies. So to me, at least, a lot of Richard Papen's insecurities and anxieties ring true-to-life.
One last note: to readers who were bored or put off by the references to Greek, Latin, French, and English literature, I would suggest that, rather than condemn Ms. Tartt for being pretentious or pedantic, we be excited that someone has the daring and the ability to create a novel that has a high idea-to-page ratio AND supports an exciting, appealing story. If you don't understand an allusion, look it up and learn something new! [I'm a college instructor myself, so pardon a bit of pedantry on my part... :-) !]
am 10. März 1999
Thank God I borrowed this and didn't buy it. Pretentious, far too long, not a single likable character. The students come across more as inmates at a prep school for the emotionally and academically inept rather than an elite progressive college. This book wants its charcters to be dangerous and decadent and depraved and they're just silly, boring, spoiled children. Elizabeth Hand's "Waking the Moon" is a much better, though far more fantastic, novel about college students, mysterious rites, and the results thereof.