The Secret History

by Donna Tartt | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0140167773 Global Overview for this book
Registered by BookGroupMan of Chester, Cheshire United Kingdom on 1/16/2004
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
6 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by BookGroupMan from Chester, Cheshire United Kingdom on Friday, January 16, 2004
(17/01) This comes highly recommended. 650+ pages, so I hope it's worth it. Started to read...

(31/01) Review to follow

Journal Entry 2 by BookGroupMan from Chester, Cheshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, February 1, 2005
The Plot
The rootless & dissatisfied Richard Papen comes to the up-market Hampden college in rural Vermont from ‘nowheresville’, California. He joins a small elite group studying classics with the brilliant but maverick professor, Julian Morrow. Early on we know there’s a death amongst the group, although the causes and protracted ramifications take another 600+ pages to unfold. There’s quite a lot of good stuff in here about the nature of friendship, love, sacrifice, aesthetics & death with references to Dante, Milton, Greek & Roman ideas, societies & myths. A product of typical 1970’s secondary modern education (natch) I probably missed a lot of the classical allusions ;-) But, a key turning point of the story is the group’s attempts to reach a ‘Dyonisian Frenzy’, to transcend an earth-bound, reasoning existence, to ‘Live forever’ by rediscovering the ancient rituals, to experience the true, the elemental ‘triumph of barbarism over reason’.

The Hype
What a huge book this was, highly praised for its erudition & impact at the time. A‘Catcher in the Rye’ for the 90’s, maybe, although, I kept thinking about Robin Williams in ‘The Dead Poet’s Society.’ I wonder why this hasn’t made it to the big screen, maybe too similar a story, too elitist & unapproachable a setting?

The Skinny
Good, but not that good.

The bits I liked; (1) the New England weather & scenery; (2) Henry’s character, the real enigmatic lead of the story, even before page 635!; (3) most of the second half of the book after the murder; the police investigation, the angst, the downward spiral of the group under pressure from within and without...

The bits I didn’t like; (1) the ‘look how much research I’ve done’ classical & literary references, the bits of Greek language & pseudo-intellectualism; (2) the overlong first half of the book and whole swathes of extraneous detail everywhere; (3) Julian’s character, which starts out promising but sort of drifts off; (4) the ceaseless dissolution, just how much drink & drugs did these students indulge in, was it all necessary for the plot? Last but not least, (5) Charles’s character – just because he’s unlikeable!

And a couple of quotes:

(Richard, about himself and the nature of obsession & digression; I recognise this apparent contradiction in terms, although I tend to call the latter time-wasting ;-)

"It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive."

(the epilogue heading)

"Alas, poor gentleman
He look’d not like the ruins of his youth
But like the ruins of those ruins"
– John Ford (The Broken Heart)

Journal Entry 3 by BookGroupMan at on Friday, March 11, 2005

Released 17 yrs ago (3/12/2005 UTC) at



Passing to Redhouse (cos she asked for it), at the latest bi-monthly Ipswich meet-up

Journal Entry 4 by winglelliewing from Trimley St Mary, Suffolk United Kingdom on Monday, March 21, 2005
Thanks BookGroupMan. Arrived a couple of days ago. I think I'll enjoy this.

Journal Entry 5 by winglelliewing from Trimley St Mary, Suffolk United Kingdom on Saturday, June 25, 2005
Finally got around to it!
For my review, just read Tony's above. I agree.
I'm putting this into foxy737's bookbox.

Journal Entry 6 by foxy737 from Westgate on Sea, Kent United Kingdom on Thursday, June 30, 2005
part of bookbox when returned to me

Journal Entry 7 by foxy737 from Westgate on Sea, Kent United Kingdom on Wednesday, October 12, 2005
couldn't get into this releasing into bookbox

Change of plans last minute swapped from bookbox for another book so i could release to fellow bookcrosser in trade as this is on their wishlist.

Journal Entry 9 by chas04 from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Thursday, November 3, 2005
Thanks very much for this, it shall join the mammoth pile of books I seem to be hoarding by the side of my bed waiting to be read!

Journal Entry 10 by chas04 from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Thursday, July 27, 2006
I was surprised at how much I anjoyed this book. I remember reading Bret Easton Ellis and getting annoyed with the writing, but I loved this.

The setting is beautiful, imagining the cold winter snow whistling round me on the hottest days of the year so far has been wonderful. The story had me gripped, although I did begin to wonder at the beginning what I had let myself in for with all the ancient Greek history I was being told. Favourite character would have to be Francis, he is somewhat vulnerable but a good and decent person deep down that people are always bullying. I was shocked at the ending, and saddened, I liked all the characters, even Bunny, with the exception of the obnoxious twins.

I'm not normally keen on books that tell you who has been murdered at the very beginning of the book, but somehow, this book got away with it.

Journal Entry 11 by chas04 from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Sunday, April 1, 2007
I am sending this on a short bookray, the participants are listed below. The rules are as usual, journal when you receive, read and release the book to the next person. Please try to keep the ray moving byt reading it in 4 weeks, although if you have other rings / rays then obviously you have to read those first.

- ritao, Finland (INT)
- KatieLindsay, USA (INT)
- kkitten, Australia

Thank you for joining in, enjoy the book and PMing ritao for their address.

Journal Entry 12 by chas04 from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Thursday, April 12, 2007
Sending off to Ritao in Finland, enjoy the book!

Journal Entry 13 by ritao from Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Thursday, April 19, 2007
I got the book yesterday, thank you very much chas04! I will try to get to it as soon as possible, although I have quite a lot of schoolwork to do just now.

Journal Entry 14 by ritao from Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, May 13, 2007
Wow, I didn't even expect to enjoy this book as much as I did! The 660 pages of the book just flew by when I finally had the time to begin reading them. I really liked the overall atmosphere of the book, and all of the characters were very interesting, each of them bringing something new to the mix. I didn't even dislike Charlie as much as the other jornalers did, although, obviously, I wasn't too keen on him either in the end. As I don't know very much Latin and even less Greek, I too found some of the literal references etc. a bit annoying but tried to think of it as a way to educate myself.

Thank you for the opportunity to read this book, I will send it to the next reader as soon as possible.

Journal Entry 15 by rem_TAG-627428 on Thursday, November 8, 2007
I was surprised by this book, I enjoyed it but not as much as I thought I would. I read it to the end though and it's now ready to be moved on.

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