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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

What did you think of the book?  

11 members have voted

  1. 1. What did you think of the book?

    • 5/5 - l loved it
      8
    • 4/5 - I really liked it
      2
    • 3/5 - I enjoyed it
      1
    • 2/5 - It was okay but nothing special
      0
    • 1/5 - I hated it
      0


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Happy New Year 2014 everyone, I hope many of you have read the book and are eager to discuss it with the rest of us! :smile2: (I'm a bit early because I don't know how early I could start this topic tomorrow!)


It is assumed that you have read the book before reading posts in this thread, as the discussion might give away crucial points, and the continuous use of spoiler tags might hinder fluent reading of posts.

 

 

January's reading circle book is The Secret history, and the theme is boarding schools.

 

 

The Secret History - Donna Tartt

 

Synopsis - A scholarship student at an exclusive New England college, Richard unexpectedly finds kindred spirits in the charismatic students of his ancient Greek class, children of privilege immersed in beauty and culture. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their magic circle apart, Richard is drawn into a heart of darkness from which he may never return.

 

 

 

 

To start the discussion, here are some basic questions to discuss, courtesy of BCF (feel free to answer all or only the ones you want):

1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked?
2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?
3- Did you like the writing?
4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?
5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?
6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

*

7. What did you think of Julian? So far the first readers have described him as manipulative and a fraud. What is it about him that might rub you the wrong way? And if you did like Julian, we would love to hear your thoughts on him in that respect, too!

 

8. As the theme was boarding schools, I'm interested in knowing if we have anyone on here who has been to a boarding school or who has lived on campus while studying at a university? The book is from the very early 90s, so it's a bit dated, but does the descriptions of the campus life ring true? Is it credible?

And you others, you non-boarding school people: do you find the idea of boarding schools interesting/fascinating? Would you like to have been able to live on a campus? What is it about campus life that is so fascinating to you?

 

 

I will come back later with more questions :) You guys are also welcome to provide the other members questions of your own!

Edited by frankie

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I loved this book. It's a re-read for me, but because my memory is a bit rubbish, it was a lot like reading it for the first time. :giggle: I mean, I knew the basic plot (Bunny's murder), but couldn't remember any of the finer details, so I was glad to have a reason to revisit it.

 

1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked?

 

Hmm, I didn't have a favourite as they were all pretty abominable and screwed up. Richard (the narrator) was perhaps the least abominable, but that's only because we had more access to his thoughts, and he could in a way attempt to justify his actions.

 

I found Henry to be the most interesting character, but I think that's because he was so calm and 'above it' all, and I think we were meant to be fascinated by him. At the end, he lost his big act of self-preservation when Julian found the truth out, and you saw the more human-side to him. The whole Charles and Camilla thing (incest) just creeped me out. I mean, what was the point of that? Was there supposed be to some link with Greek mythology?

 

Bunny was unbelievably irritating; he's probably the one I most disliked, though I would say I disliked all of them at some point.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

All of it really, but the beginning most of all, because it sets the scene for what happens (Bunny's murder) later on, and the way it was written made you want to find out what happened, especially when you know that the narrator was directly involved.

 

3- Did you like the writing?

 

I loved the writing. I think she has a very artful way with words, quite effortless and suited to a character study like this.

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

This was the first book I read by her, and I loved it so much that I picked up The Little Friend. Unfortunately I didn't like that one, and couldn't finish it, but I did buy a Kindle copy recently as I'd like to give it another go. I also bought her most recent release, The Goldfinch, which I will read in 2014, and fingers crossed I will enjoy it as much as The Secret History.

 

5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

Not really, though the constant state of drunkeness of the characters annoyed me, but it was to be expected given the circumstances.

 

6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

Yes, very much so. It's one of those books that I always recommend to people, and I do think there's something very unique about it.

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I noticed this in the Book Activity thread. Well spotted, Kidsmum!! :D

 

 

I'm nearing the halfway mark in Secret History hoping to finish it before the years out ready for the reading circle discussion. Coincidentially the books being discussed on Radio 4's bookclub on Sunday 5th, January for anyone who's interested in tuning in  :D

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Only skimmed the above posts, as I've just found my copy yesterday!!  Yays!!   :exc:

 

Will get right on it. :D

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1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked?

 

I liked Richard the best, because we got to hear more about his struggles to survive (literally at times) as well as his thought processes.  While most of the characters were annoying in a drunken studenty way, I really disliked the hard-heartedness of Richard's parents (who didn't seem interested in his wellbeing at all) and Julian (who I thought seemed pretentious and manipulative).

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

Not really, I loved the whole book.  This is the third time I have read it; when I came to read it the second time I was surprised there wasnt more about the Bacchanal as I was sure I remembered much more - my imagination was obviously working overtime the first time around!

 

3- Did you like the writing?

Very much.  I thought it was engaging and told the story well and I enjoyed the use of language.

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

At the time I read it, it was her first book and, like bobblybear, I couldn't wait for her next but was sadly disappointed by The Little Friend.  I would like to give it another go, though, in case maybe I just wasn't in the mood at the time and would enjoy it more now.  I am looking forward to reading The Goldfinch.

 

5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

No, I found the whole book enjoyable and easy to read.  I found it unpleasant to think of a group of friends murdering one of their own in such cold blood, but I didn't actually struggle with either the idea or reading about it.

 

6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Very much so.  It is on my list of favourite books ever.  While the second and third readings didn't have as much impact on me as my first reading, I still enjoyed it very much.

Edited by Ooshie

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Really interesting reading people's thoughts on it  :smile: I just finished my reread of it yesterday so shall be back on soon to put up my thoughts on it when i've got more time  :D

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1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked? 

Richard was my favourite character because he felt himself to be an outsider who wanted to fit in with this group of people whom he admired & i think we've all felt like that to a certain extent especially when your younger & more insecure about yourself. There weren't any characters that i disliked , for some reason i could see Henry as looking like Sheldon from the Big Bang, i suppose because he was quite geeky & Bunny to me looked like a young Boris Johnson, the current major of London, as they both seem to have buffoonish personalities. I suppose for me Julian was the least likable, i could forgive the others their personality defects because they were young but Julian came across as an old fraud.
2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

I liked the part about the funeral the most . I just kept thinking how horrifc it would be having to stay with the family of someone who you've been responsible for the death of, to see their grief & know you were responsible for their loss yet to have to play this part. I think the strain of it showed in Henry with the return of his migraines & in Richard when he nearly breaks down & apologises when Bunny's father starts crying. Also at the end when Julian discovers their secret, even though this was the second time i've read the book i was still holding my breath as he turned over the letter. 
3- Did you like the writing? 

I loved the writing, i was utterly gripped by the story from start to finish which considering the murder doesn't happen till nearly halfway through the story shows the quality of the writing. The characters were so well drawn that i could believe that they were real & that this actually happened. I also liked the way she casually drops into the story that a murder is going to take place ' Up until the very end there was always, Sunday-night dinner at Charles & Camilla's, except on the evening of the murder itself, when no one felt much like eating & it was postponed until Monday'


4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I read The Little Friend first which i loved, like The Secret History it has great characters & is also in my top ten favourite books & i got The Goldfinch for Christma so really looking forward to reading that.
5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

No there were no parts i struggled with but like Bobbly & Ooshie i found the excessive drinking annoying.
6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Very enjoyable, although it was a reread the writing hadn't lost any of it's impact on me & its a book that i know i'll read again.

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Oh my, four votes so far and they are all 5/5! :D I'm mighty pleased everyone's liked this book so far! Although of course there will be other opinions too, later on, and all opinions and ratings are welcome :)

 

I will first post my own answers to the questions and then read through all the posts above and comment.

 

 

1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked?

 

I don't think I liked any character 'all the way through'. And I don't think I had any real favorites. As far as their likability goes, I guess I liked Richard Papen and Francis the most. Richard seemed the most sensible of them all, even though he went with the group in the end. And I found I sympathized with Francis for some reason. He seemed like a good guy and I wish he'd gotten some proper action :)

 

I disliked quite a few characters. I disliked Bunny for being such a greedy, manipulative person. Such shamelessness! And I disliked Henry, he was so cold and calculating. Although I only realised that afterwards, or later on in the story. In the beginning he seemed one of the likable characters... I didn't really like Charles, and I couldn't get any kind of grasp of Camilla, either.

 

But I think with this kind of novel, it didn't matter that I didn't have any clear favorites and that I didn't like anyone, unconditionally.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

I don't remember liking any particular parts. The whole book was so thrilling and enjoyable. Although I have to say that the most intriguing part was everything that happened before Bunny's death, and the events of his death. The second part which dealth with the 'aftermath' wasn't as equally riveting but very enjoyable still.

 

3- Did you like the writing?

 

I did. I read the book in Finnish and the translation was very good, I don't think anything was lost in the process.

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

This was my first book by Tartt, but this was a re-read for me. I read the book back in 2005, and I loved it that time round, too. It's one of my favorites and has been on my personal frankie recommends - list :smile2: I was a bit afraid that the book wouldn't be as good on a second reading, but it was. It really was! I'd also been afraid that I would remember most of it and it would truly feel like a re-read, but miraculously I'd forgotten quite a lot. When I started, I remembered that the group killed Bunny, but I didn't remember why. Then when I was a good deal into the book, I remembered the other major part of the book, the catalyst of the later events.

 

And I didn't remember any of the events after Bunny's death. I didn't remember if the group was caught or not. So in that way the rest of the novel was very intriguing. I never remembered Henry killed himself :o That shocked me.

 

When I first read the book, I don't remember if Tartt had already written The Little Friend. But I did find a copy of it later on and wanted to read it. I never got further than 100 pages and I've heard that it's not as good. That the ending is disappointing. And the book is very very long, so I don't know if it's worth it. I'm not sure if I want to read The Goldfinch.

 

5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

Not really. I think I might've struggled with the different backgrounds of the characters in the 'group' had I not read the book once before.

 

6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

It was, very much so. It's a book I've been wanting to re-read for a while and I'm really happy that it was chosen for the reading circle! :smile2: I did worry that my mojo might not be up for it, or that it might be a bit dull because it was a re-read, but I needn't have worried, I was captivated!

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I loved this book. It's a re-read for me, but because my memory is a bit rubbish, it was a lot like reading it for the first time. :giggle: I mean, I knew the basic plot (Bunny's murder), but couldn't remember any of the finer details, so I was glad to have a reason to revisit it.

I agree with you, it was a re-read for me but I'd forgotten so much about it that the second part of the book was all like a new read for me :D I didn't remember any of the events after Bunny's death!

 

Did you remember, though, about the bacchanal? I didn't, and I found it so odd. It's the catalyst!!

 

Hmm, I didn't have a favourite as they were all pretty abominable and screwed up. Richard (the narrator) was perhaps the least abominable, but that's only because we had more access to his thoughts, and he could in a way attempt to justify his actions.

Richard seems to be the most 'likable' or the one that makes the most sense to the majority of us in the circle. You've made a good point, one I didn't consider myself: Richard was able to justify his actions because he is the narrator. We didn't see Henry justifying his actions (at least in a way that would make the reader sympathize or understand), but then again we don't get to hear the story from his point-of-view.

 

 

The whole Charles and Camilla thing (incest) just creeped me out. I mean, what was the point of that? Was there supposed be to some link with Greek mythology?

Personally I don't know if there was any particular point to it. To me it was just something that was there. If I consider it from the author's point-of-view, of course it makes the story more interesting and it makes for yet another twist, but it also adds to the relationships between Charles and Henry, for example. It was another motive for Charles and Camilla to want to shut Bunny up. If there hadn't been that incestual relationship, things wouldn't have gotten so muddled and (to the reader) interesting.

 

I think when Bunny was accusing Camilla of sleeping with his brother, he said something about it being so 'convenient' or 'typical' or something like that, because Greeks did it all the time...

 

I also bought her most recent release, The Goldfinch, which I will read in 2014, and fingers crossed I will enjoy it as much as The Secret History.

 

I've read the blurb but I can't remember what it was about. I guess it didn't appeal to me very much, or maybe I'm not interested in her other books because of The Little Friend... I'm going to google The Goldfinch again after posting this.

 

 

Only skimmed the above posts, as I've just found my copy yesterday!!  Yays!!  

 

Will get right on it.

I hope you enjoy it!! :)

 

 

 

 

1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked?

 

I liked Richard the best, because we got to hear more about his struggles to survive (literally at times) as well as his thought processes.  While most of the characters were annoying in a drunken studenty way, I really disliked the hard-heartedness of Richard's parents (who didn't seem interested in his wellbeing at all) and Julian (who I thought seemed pretentious and manipulative).

It was pretty horrid to read how Richard's parents didn't seem at all inviting when he was wondering what to do on holidays. He actually went to live in that horrid place at Leo's more willingly than went to his parents. That's quite telling!

 

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

Not really, I loved the whole book.  This is the third time I have read it; when I came to read it the second time I was surprised there wasnt more about the Bacchanal as I was sure I remembered much more - my imagination was obviously working overtime the first time around!

I can sympathize! I also thought there was more to the bacchanal, and what's more, I thought we would get a 20 page description of Bunny's death, but it was all very short and quick when we finally came to that point. I was sure there was loads more to read about it!

 

I guess the bacchanal and the horrid death made such a big impact on you and me during our previous reads that we thought there was more to them than we remembered!

 

 

3- Did you like the writing?

Very much.  I thought it was engaging and told the story well and I enjoyed the use of language.

I think the use of the language was genius. It was very well thought out and executed when considering that the narrator was a lit student. And I think because of Richard's vocabulary and style I thought he was much older than he actually was.

 

I mean I knew they were all uni students so they couldn't be very old, but they seemed to mature for their age. I guess the language and their being so different from the usual uni students was the thing that contributed to me thinking they were older than they actually were. Of course they were immature in their ways, but the language they used made up for it at times. I guess I had to keep reminding myself these are not 30 year olds!

 

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

At the time I read it, it was her first book and, like bobblybear, I couldn't wait for her next but was sadly disappointed by The Little Friend.  I would like to give it another go, though, in case maybe I just wasn't in the mood at the time and would enjoy it more now.  I am looking forward to reading The Goldfinch.

So you actually finished The Little Friend? Could you tell us a bit more about it? No spoilers, but what was the problem for you with the book?

 

 

5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

No, I found the whole book enjoyable and easy to read.  I found it unpleasant to think of a group of friends murdering one of their own in such cold blood, but I didn't actually struggle with either the idea or reading about it.

Throughout the book I kept thinking of this true crime case in the States. I saw a movie on it years ago and have been thinking about reading the book. The book is called Bully and it's by Jim Schutze.

 

Here's the synopsis:

 

Booby Kent was a bully--a steroid-pumped 20-year-old who dominated his peers in their comfortable, middle-class Ft. Lauderdale beach community through psychological, physical and sexual abuse. But on a summer night in 1993, Bobby was lured to the edge of the Florida everglades with a promise of sex and drugs. . .and was never seen alive again. The tormentor had become the victim in a bizarre and brutal act of vengeance carried out with ruthless efficiency and cold-blooded premeditation by seven of his high school acquaintances--including his lifelong best friend--and instigated by one overweight, underloved teenager who believed her life would be perfect. . .if only Bobby Kent were dead.

 

I can't believe the Amazon synopsis actually says Booby Kent... It's Bobby!

 

Of course it's a whole different thing, these are not uni students, and Bobby was violent both physically as well as emotionally, but I was just reminded of the case because of the group thing.

Edited by frankie

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1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked? 

Richard was my favourite character because he felt himself to be an outsider who wanted to fit in with this group of people whom he admired & i think we've all felt like that to a certain extent especially when your younger & more insecure about yourself. There weren't any characters that i disliked , for some reason i could see Henry as looking like Sheldon from the Big Bang, i suppose because he was quite geeky & Bunny to me looked like a young Boris Johnson, the current major of London, as they both seem to have buffoonish personalities. I suppose for me Julian was the least likable, i could forgive the others their personality defects because they were young but Julian came across as an old fraud.

 

A few of us have now mentioned Julian was not a likable character and that he came across as an old fraud, manipulative etc. When I started reading the book, I didn't remember what the deal was with Julian, but I had this idea that there was something fishy about him. And that he might've actually been a part of the whole group thing, when it came to the bacchanal and the murder. So I was a bit surprised when I was reading the novel and found it wasn't so. So this way I actually tolerated Julian a whole lot more this second time.

 

I'm curious: what was it about him that is so fishy? Should he have gone to the police?

 

I agree with you, I didn't like him and he was an odd character, but I'm interested in your further thoughts on the subject.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

I liked the part about the funeral the most . I just kept thinking how horrifc it would be having to stay with the family of someone who you've been responsible for the death of, to see their grief & know you were responsible for their loss yet to have to play this part. I think the strain of it showed in Henry with the return of his migraines & in Richard when he nearly breaks down & apologises when Bunny's father starts crying. Also at the end when Julian discovers their secret, even though this was the second time i've read the book i was still holding my breath as he turned over the letter.

I agree, the letter thing was so scary :D When Richard and Francis noticed the logo.. and then again when Henry was just leafing through the letter and the look Richard gave him, and it being a matter of seconds... It was really thrilling :D

 

3- Did you like the writing? 

I loved the writing, i was utterly gripped by the story from start to finish which considering the murder doesn't happen till nearly halfway through the story shows the quality of the writing. The characters were so well drawn that i could believe that they were real & that this actually happened. I also liked the way she casually drops into the story that a murder is going to take place ' Up until the very end there was always, Sunday-night dinner at Charles & Camilla's, except on the evening of the murder itself, when no one felt much like eating & it was postponed until Monday'

I've only read this book in Finnish, and while the translation is great, I think I now have to read the book in English, too. The murder was 'postponed'? :D Hilarious. Yes the Finnish translator used the Finnish word for it, but it sounds more ... common day thing in English. Like postponing a meeting!

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I read The Little Friend first which i loved, like The Secret History it has great characters & is also in my top ten favourite books & i got The Goldfinch for Christma so really looking forward to reading that.

I know a few people on here have read and enjoyed The Little Friend, but I couldn't recall who they were. It's nice to finally know you've read it and enjoyed it! :D And I think, considering the people I know who've read both books or tried reading both books, it's usually TSH they have first read and loved, and then have moved on to TLF. And very few have said they've enjoyed both.

 

What was it about The Little Friend that you liked?

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I have some other thoughts/questions.

 

I already added a question on Julian in the first post: what did you think of him, and what was it about him that made you feel the way you did about him.

 

Before I forget, I want to talk about the title. The Secret History. Of course there's the Greek history that is being discussed, and also the secret history of the murder and the events that led to it. However, the Finnish title is different: the loose translation of the Finnish title would be Gods Celebrate at Night. I think in a way the Finnish title is better. Who are the Gods?

 

In the blurb of my Finnish copy, it says that the book is 'An acclaimed debut novel about rich young students, whose sense of superiority leads them to commit a crime. A story about guilt and innocence tainted by conceit.'

 

In my opinion, the Gods are of course a reference to the Greek gods, but I think it's also a reference to the bacchanal. Sense of superiority? Do the members of the group consider themselves gods in some way? They certainly played the part of god when murdering Bunny. And I think Henry at least thought rather highly of himself.

 

Remember when Henry said that the reason why it would be stupid to confess was that he didn't think it served any purpose for the tax payers to jail him for a long period of time? Someone in the group also talked about Francis and Henry at some other point, and how they would never have to get a job. They are rich enough to do nothing for the rest of their lives. Francis has never had a job and Henry's dream is to translate the texts and study Greek literature further. So, in that respect, he wouldn't actually be contributing to the society by paying taxes... His logic fails. Although maybe he did think about the trial and the trial being paid by the tax payers...

 

*

 

As the theme was boarding schools, I'm interested in knowing if we have anyone on here who has been to a boarding school or who has lived on campus while studying at a university? The book is from the very early 90s, so it's a bit dated, but does the descriptions of the campus life ring true? Is it credible?

 

And you others, you non-boarding school people: do you find the idea of boarding schools interesting/fascinating? Would you like to have been able to live on a campus? What is it about campus life that is so fascinating to you?

Edited by frankie

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And I didn't remember any of the events after Bunny's death. I didn't remember if the group was caught or not. So in that way the rest of the novel was very intriguing. I never remembered Henry killed himself :o That shocked me.

 

I didn't recall that part either, so it was a shock when it happened, and I had to stop and re-read the paragraph again.

 

Did you remember, though, about the bacchanal? I didn't, and I found it so odd. It's the catalyst!!

I didn't remember anything about it. In fact, before I started reading it this time around, I vaguely thought that they had murdered Bunny just to see if they could get away with murder. I had no recollection at all of the bacchanal. :blush2:

 

For a book I enjoyed so much, I'm surprised how little I remembered of it. :blush2:

Edited by bobblybear

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I didn't recall that part either, so it was a shock when it happened, and I had to stop and re-read the paragraph again.

Me, too! I had to read it all over again, because it was so much to take in all of a sudden. And this is a book I've read once before! :D

 

I didn't remember anything about it. In fact, before I started reading it this time around, I vaguely thought that they had murdered Bunny just to see if they could get away with murder. I had no recollection at all of the bacchanal. :blush2:

If you didn't remember the bacchanal (like I didn't), I think the idea of them having murdered Bunny just to see if they could get away with it is actually rather credible. It would make a different kind of book, but yes, I wouldn't necessarily put it past them. I could actually see some of them doing something like that.

 

 

 

For a book I enjoyed so much, I'm surprised how little I remembered of it. :blush2:

Agreed :giggle::blush:

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I found a wonderfully written article on the book over here, written by Hannah Rosefield.

 

One thing that struck me was this:

 

"The Secret History inspires cultish devotion because it depicts a cult the reader herself can join. The Greek students—Henry, Francis, Bunny and twins Charles and Camilla—have their own ideals and routines that cut them off from the rest of the world. Their parents are dead or distant; their teacher Julian is the only father figure they have."

 

That is actually very true, in my opinion, and something I hadn't thought of. He really is a father figure: someone constant in their lives, someone who cares about them, and noticed when they are gone or sad or disturbed, etc. And of course we can't demand that he be all the things that a father is, because in the end, he is just another unrelated human being who has their own life.

 

And even though I've read the book twice, and I did know about the group's members' backgrounds, I only just realised that indeed they all had distant or dead parents. I guess it isn't really such a wonder they felt so close to and in such an awe towards Julian.

 

Which makes Julian's role in the novel even more pivotal, and yet I feel like he's in the back seat.

 

I remember this part in the novel when someone was talking to Julian. It was Henry or Francis. I meant to check it afterwards to see what it was in reference to... But someone asked him if they ought to do it, and Julian said something like a man ought to do what a man ought to do. I should really look the scene up to offer you a more accurate description... But when I was reading the book, even though I had read the book once before, I had no idea what the situation was in reference to. The bacchanal? Surely it couldn't have been related to Bunny's murder because Julian didn't know about that. Hm.

Edited by frankie

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Just wanted to post a link to a dramatisation of this which is on Radio 4 Ex this week. Sadly I expect it's only available to UK residents but still I thought it was worth posting.

 

I read it some years ago now and loved it but so much has faded from my mind. I think that's because it's quite detailed .. lots and lots to take in. I did remember about the bacchanal but have to agree with frankie that the group seemed capable of killing just for the thrill of seeing if they could get away with it. 

 

I didn't really have a favourite, Richard seemed the least objectionable .. I did find myself caring about his home situation in particular. I didn't like Henry, he was so affected and condescending and Bunny was just too irritating for words .. tbh .. I felt like pushing him over the cliff  :blush2: .. it was difficult to have sympathy for him. 

I know it's been done before but I loved the way the story started with a prologue giving us a brief outline of Bunny's murder .. it meant that you knew what was coming and so gave an extra edge to everything the group did ... the tension was there from the beginning and it just escalated right up to the death and beyond into the search and enquiry. Probably my favourite part was the search .. knowing that Bunny was there hidden under the snow but that the thaw would come and he'd be discovered. You knew about the murder but didn't know what the outcome would be ... whether the group would be found out etc so that all made it extra tense. 

I have got The Little Friend on the shelf (have had people telling me they didn't like it and people saying they preferred it so  :shrug:) and fully intend to get The Goldfinch at some point ... she's such a good story teller  :smile: 

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Thanks for the link, I couldn't find a readily available copy at my library so took "The Little Friend" instead. hopefully will be able to listen to the radio 4 version on catch-up if I find the time  :blush2:

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That's really interesting info Frankie i hadn't thought of Julian as a father figure but it explains so much - will be back to reply in more detail when i get a chance  :smile:

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A few of us have now mentioned Julian was not a likable character and that he came across as an old fraud, manipulative etc. When I started reading the book, I didn't remember what the deal was with Julian, but I had this idea that there was something fishy about him. And that he might've actually been a part of the whole group thing, when it came to the bacchanal and the murder. So I was a bit surprised when I was reading the novel and found it wasn't so. So this way I actually tolerated Julian a whole lot more this second time.

 

I'm curious: what was it about him that is so fishy? Should he have gone to the police?

 

I agree with you, I didn't like him and he was an odd character, but I'm interested in your further thoughts on the subject.

 

I agree, the letter thing was so scary :D When Richard and Francis noticed the logo.. and then again when Henry was just leafing through the letter and the look Richard gave him, and it being a matter of seconds... It was really thrilling :D

 

I've only read this book in Finnish, and while the translation is great, I think I now have to read the book in English, too. The murder was 'postponed'? :D Hilarious. Yes the Finnish translator used the Finnish word for it, but it sounds more ... common day thing in English. Like postponing a meeting!

 

I know a few people on here have read and enjoyed The Little Friend, but I couldn't recall who they were. It's nice to finally know you've read it and enjoyed it! :D And I think, considering the people I know who've read both books or tried reading both books, it's usually TSH they have first read and loved, and then have moved on to TLF. And very few have said they've enjoyed both.

 

What was it about The Little Friend that you liked?

 

Apologies for taking so long to reply Frankie, i don't know how to split up your quote so here goes

 

As this was a reread for me i already knew how things worked out with Julian so i disliked him right from the beginning but i think the first time i read it i didn't feel that he was a bad person till the very end when he shows his true colours. He isolated the group from the rest of the college making them solely dependent on him for their education & emotional welfare & then when he finds out what they've done he just deserts them & quite literally runs away with devastating consequences especially for Henry. To me he seemed like a very shallow person with only superficial charm & no real substance to him.... a Skindeep ..... as the Stranglers would say & a coward.

 

The letter thing was so tense i was holding my breath, it's funny isn't it even though they'd committed murder i didn't want them to get caught, although i still feel that they paid for their crime as their lives just unravelled afterwards.

 

I don't think it was the murder that was postponed but their regular dinner appointment because of the murder... i guess killing someone spoils your appetite  :smile: But yes when the murder was mentioned it was like it was just a common place event not something of huge consequence.

 

I was really surprised after i'd read The Little Friend to hear that so many disliked it as i enjoyed it so much. I think again for me it was the characters that made the book, initially i disliked Harriet but as the book went on i really started to admire her strength of character & tenacity she really did have a horrible homelife. Also there's some great scenes in it that i still remember but i wont mention them as i don't want to spoil the story. Some books you can enjoy but then you forget plot lines etc.after awhile but i can still remember lots of TLF & it's definitely up there in my Top Ten favourite books, I gave away my copy but wish i hadn't now as i would like to read it again  I hope you'll give it another chance Frankie. :D

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Before I forget, I want to talk about the title. The Secret History. Of course there's the Greek history that is being discussed, and also the secret history of the murder and the events that led to it. However, the Finnish title is different: the loose translation of the Finnish title would be Gods Celebrate at Night. I think in a way the Finnish title is better. Who are the Gods?

 

In the blurb of my Finnish copy, it says that the book is 'An acclaimed debut novel about rich young students, whose sense of superiority leads them to commit a crime. A story about guilt and innocence tainted by conceit.'

 

In my opinion, the Gods are of course a reference to the Greek gods, but I think it's also a reference to the bacchanal. Sense of superiority? Do the members of the group consider themselves gods in some way? They certainly played the part of god when murdering Bunny. And I think Henry at least thought rather highly of himself.

 

Remember when Henry said that the reason why it would be stupid to confess was that he didn't think it served any purpose for the tax payers to jail him for a long period of time? Someone in the group also talked about Francis and Henry at some other point, and how they would never have to get a job. They are rich enough to do nothing for the rest of their lives. Francis has never had a job and Henry's dream is to translate the texts and study Greek literature further. So, in that respect, he wouldn't actually be contributing to the society by paying taxes... His logic fails. Although maybe he did think about the trial and the trial being paid by the tax payers...

 

*

 

As the theme was boarding schools, I'm interested in knowing if we have anyone on here who has been to a boarding school or who has lived on campus while studying at a university? The book is from the very early 90s, so it's a bit dated, but does the descriptions of the campus life ring true? Is it credible?

 

And you others, you non-boarding school people: do you find the idea of boarding schools interesting/fascinating? Would you like to have been able to live on a campus? What is it about campus life that is so fascinating to you?

 

I agree the Finnish title is better & i think that in a way the group themselves were like gods as they kept themselves aloof from the rest of the students & thought themselves superior because they were Julian's chosen few & as you say they certainly behaved like gods when they decided to take Bunny's life.

 

I have to say my only experience of boarding schools is reading Enid Blyton books to my youngest daughter & i don't think they're all that realistic but the thought of sending any of my children away to school & only seeing them at the holidays makes me feel ill. I know when we took our eldest to her accomodation with all her stuff when she went to Uni it was really hard to leave her there & i think i was more worried about it than her.

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I just listened to The Bookclub interview with Donna Tartt talking about The Secret History well worth a listen if you can get Radio 4.  :smile:

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I just listened to The Bookclub interview with Donna Tartt talking about The Secret History well worth a listen if you can get Radio 4.  :smile:

 

Here's a link to the Bookclub page with all the episodes on for you to listen to if anyone else is interested --> http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/bc

Edited by chesilbeach

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Something Athena asked on my Reading Log.....what year was The Secret History set (the college years)? I remember wondering this as I was reading it, but I couldn't find any 'cues' to clue me in. There was no mention of internet, mobile phones, or emails, so it can't be too recent, but then it didn't feel like it was in the 1970's or prior. Anyone have any ideas?

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I'm closing my eyes, so as not to see too much in the threads, but wanted to answer BB's post as I just passed two time marks in the book. 

 

~ First on page 85 of the trade paperback. Where they are at dinner and speaking of man walking on the moon.  Henry was startled about it, didn't know it had happened.  The first moonwalk was on July 20, 1969.

 

~ Second on page 95 where they are talking about Francis's mother just being released from the Betty Ford Center.  That Center opened in 1982.

 

Since the narrator, in the beginning, says that he is 28, and saw Hampden College when 19.  The book was written in 1992, so the logic seems to point to the book's real story beginning 1983, if we treat the books writing in 1992 as the "present". 

 

Back later, I'm only on page 95. :)

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Thanks for that Pontalba. :smile:  Now that you mention it I remember Henry being surprised about man on the moon. So, early 1980's sounds like it.

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I'll answer these questions before I read others responses or I may be swayed..

 

1- Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters whom you disliked? 

 

I liked Henry the best, he was so quirky yet had an almost English civilness about him, I could tell from quite early on that he and Camilla had a thing going on but obviously didn't know why they were so secretive about it.. I wasn't sure about him and Julian either, I suspected they were close at times too.  He also gave me the impression that maybe he was on the asperger scale too as he was so intelligent and single minded.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

Hmm, I'm not sure, the first third I struggled with a little but once I got into into it more and spent more time reading it I thoroughly enjoyed it all. The chapter leading up to Bunny's death was probably one of the best pieces of writing I have read in a while.  I thought the Epilogue was pretty stunning and unusually relevant too.

 

3- Did you like the writing? 

 

Yes, I was surprised to find it as free flowing as it was. At times I felt she digressed too much and went into too much academic detail that I didn't find particularly relevant (or interesting) to the story but I suppose a background of academia was required.

 

4- Was this the first book you've read by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

Yes and yes, I have download The Goldfinch to read at a later date.


5- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

The academic writing, it was all greek to me! :D


6- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

Yes, I'm pleased to say it was.

 

7. What did you think of Julian? So far the first readers have described him as manipulative and a fraud. What is it about him that might rub you the wrong way? And if you did like Julian, we would love to hear your thoughts on him in that respect, too!

 

I liked Julian! (Though I normally find out the characters I like are the baddies!  :o ) I found Julian to be a gentle soul, completely absorbed by his love of his work and his students. I was only a little disappointed towards the end of the story when he found out the truth. I would have predicted he would do something, i'm not sure what, but it was a weak ending to that part of the story I felt..

 

8. As the theme was boarding schools, I'm interested in knowing if we have anyone on here who has been to a boarding school or who has lived on campus while studying at a university? The book is from the very early 90s, so it's a bit dated, but does the descriptions of the campus life ring true? Is it credible?

 

Sadly, despite being an avid reader of Malory Towers etc I have no experience of boarding school. :(

 

And you others, you non-boarding school people: do you find the idea of boarding schools interesting/fascinating? Would you like to have been able to live on a campus? What is it about campus life that is so fascinating to you?

 

I think in a fictional world the idea of dorms, sports teams and midnight feasts is wonderful but I know from friends that in reality it wasn't always so good, cold dorms, dictatorial teachers, no peace and quiet etc etc..

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