The Secret History

Donna Tartt, Author Alfred A Knopf Inc $27.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-679-41032-4
Tartt's much bruited first novel is a huge (592 pages) rambling story that is sometimes ponderous, sometimes highly entertaining. Part psychological thriller, part chronicle of debauched, wasted youth, it suffers from a basically improbable plot, a fault Tartt often redeems through the bravado of her execution. Narrator Richard Papen comes from a lower-class family and a loveless California home to the ``hermetic, overheated atmosphere'' of Vermont's Hampden College. Almost too easily, he is accepted into a clique of five socially sophisticated students who study Classics with an idiosyncratic, morally fraudulent professor. Despite their demanding curriculum (they quote Greek classics to each other at every opportunity) the friends spend most of their time drinking and taking pills. Finally they reveal to Richard that they accidentally killed a man during a bacchanalian frenzy; when one of their number seems ready to spill the secret, the group--now including Richard--must kill him, too. The best parts of the book occur after the second murder, when Tartt describes the effect of the death on a small community, the behavior of the victim's family and the conspirators' emotional disintegration. Here her gifts for social satire and character analysis are shown to good advantage and her writing is powerful and evocative. On the other hand, the plot's many inconsistencies, the self-indulgent, high-flown references to classic literature and the reliance on melodrama make one wish this had been a tauter, more focused novel. In the final analysis, however, readers may enjoy the pull of a mysterious, richly detailed story told by a talented writer. 75,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/07/1992
Release date: 09/01/1992
Show other formats
FORMATS
Paperback - 592 pages - 978-0-449-91151-8
Mass Market Paperbound - 512 pages - 978-0-8041-1135-5
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-679-41057-7
Hardcover - 978-0-517-16630-7
Book - 978-0-06-078647-2
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-14-016777-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-06-051804-2
Open Ebook - 385 pages - 978-0-307-76569-7
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-1-4000-3170-2
Book - 978-0-06-081420-5
Open Ebook - 260 pages - 978-1-299-01164-9
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.