The Secret History

The Secret History

Book - 1992
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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.
Publisher: New York Alfred A. Knopf 1992
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9780679410324
Branch Call Number: TARTT
Characteristics: 524 p. 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jan 19, 2021

My favorite book of 2020. Suspenseful, intelligent. quirky. Lord of the Flies with college students without the dread and bullying. A period piece from the eighties.

Jan 19, 2021

I loved this book and their characters. Have a good read.

Jan 13, 2021

I thought that the narrator was the wrong choice for this audiobook and I found it so distracting that I decided to abandon it and read the book instead.

Dec 25, 2020

Boring. I didn't much care for the writing style, and couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters, so I abandoned it early.

Oct 13, 2020

Beguiling from beginning to end

Sep 27, 2020

It was well written, of course, but I tend to agree with the two star rating from others on Goodreads. Those who defend it and 'adored' it are all either 'yuppies' themselves or wannabe the elite spoiled little murderers they admire.

I wanted more depth on Julian (the only grown up). The one reason why I was glad I stuck with it was (on my copy) pages 510/511 when the narrator described his opinion of Julian in depth. It actually brought a lump to my throat and saved the book from a two star rating.

The rest was kind of disgusting and full of pretentious crap.

FPL_Annie Sep 05, 2020

Just normal classics major stuff, you know, quoting ancient plays, drinking recklessly, getting too enthusiastic about Greek homework one night and committing murder.

Sep 02, 2020

The Secret History by Donna Tartt, set in the pretentious and elite, yet fictional, Hampden College in Vermont, follows Richard Papen, who leaves his hometown in California for an opportunity to study classics with an eccentric group of students and their selective professor, Julian Morrow. As selective as the group of students may seem to be, Richard is accepted into the group of 6 total, and unknowingly entangled with them for the rest of his life. The novel follows the group as they explore new ways to think and act in ways more advanced than their peers, and their eventual descent past normality and into corruption, betrayal, and evil. The Secret History by Donna Tartt is most notoriously grouped into the made-famous aesthetic called “Dark Academia”, which is centered around higher education, the arts and literature, classics, including Greek and Gothic literature and architecture, as well as romanticism and death. What this book does in its 544 pages exactly encapsulates everything outlined relating to the aesthetic, making it desirable for those interested in designing a life of their own in an effort to pay homage to what we call “Dark Academia”. Although published in the 90’s, The Secret History provides a gateway from the normal word of public school and english class to an underground society and higher education with more secrets than none. I recommend this book to all interested, generally, in learning and expanding their knowledge, the Dark Academia aesthetic, or just in pursuit of a novel that has the ability to send you to another world. 5/5 stars
@readingmouse of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

AndreaG_KCMO Aug 28, 2020

This book is lush with bohemian rich kid atmosphere and frosty New England setting. I resented Richard’s university comrades but understood his attraction to their aesthetic lifestyle and his concealment of a past he views as dreary and inadequate. With the unfolding of high-impact plot intrigue is also an unraveling of each character’s manicured persona. His status as a kind of outcast (from his family and, at intervals, from his Hampden friends) and the sudden escalation of events makes him a barely credible sympathetic protagonist. Whether he deserves that sympathy by the end of the novel is a questionable and complicated game of ethics.

Jul 27, 2020

While the characters have flaws and r probably like no one you know they are interesting and the chaos of their lives leaves them little wiggle room.

View All Comments


Add a Summary
Sep 27, 2019

I felt transported into a world that was not overtly familiar to me but covertly, it hit the spot. It was like a 5 course meal that you savor, looking forward to tasting more depth of all sorts. Fantastic emotional studies.

Aug 04, 2017

actually they're studying ancient Greek, and their social bond is a sense of superiority over the other students as well as local working-class people, and they do horrible things over the course of 1 school year, told from point of view of an incoming freshman who pretends to be rich like them because he admires their inhumane snobbery and is bored and ashamed of his own background.

Jun 01, 2016

Six college friends become more closely connected through their secluded study of Latin, but all they believed to be true about one another and their intentions crumbles when a series of unpredictable events spirals out of control.


Add Age Suitability
Aug 19, 2015

VV12 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add Notices
Aug 18, 2015

Other: incest


Add a Quote
Jun 02, 2016

"Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation."

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Find it at MAPL

To Top