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The Secret History Paperback – September 29, 1996
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From the Publisher
I had heard about this book for years, pretty much everyone I knew told me to read it--to the point that I started to actively resist the idea. So when I had eye-laser surgery, I took home a copy of the audio for my recovery, and immediately regretted that I had put off reading it for so long. Once fully recovered, I got the paperback and read it for the bits that I might have missed. Even better the second time!A. Scheibe, editorial.
From the Inside Flap
"Powerful...Enthrallling...A ferociously well-paced entertainment."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds 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....
"A smart, craftsman-like, viscerally compelling novel."
Selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
From the Paperback edition.
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Tartt has written a great novel, excelling the same way as her contemporary males (my initial thought is Jonathan Franzen's "the Corrections"). I perhaps "liked" The Goldfinch" more simply because I liked Theo better than Richard. But overall, "the Secret History" is a much better written story.
This was a tough story to get through for me. I got stuck about a third of the way in and languished there interminably until the last quarter of the book. The story is slow. This is hard because she gives you the normal "twist" right at the beginning. So the whole middle of the book is the slow dissolve of these characters. How they came apart and what the consequences were. Now having finished the story, hindsight allows me to appreciate this slow dissolve and see the bigger picture she drew.
So my advice is to stick with it, if this is your type of story. Afterwards, I highly recommend watching the episode "Whom the Gods Would Destroy" from Masterpiece Theater's Inspector Lewis (season 1). It has a loosely similar theme, and much more fun.