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The Secret History : Popular Penguins : Popular Penguins - Donna Tartt

The Secret History : Popular Penguins

Popular Penguins

Paperback

Published: 1st September 2008
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Donna Tartt's The Secret History is the original American campus novel. When Richard Papen joins an elite group of clever misfits at his New England college, it seems he can finally become the person he wants to be. But the moral boundaries he will cross with his new friends - and the deaths they are responsible for - will change all of their lives forever. The Secret History recounts the terrible price we pay for mistakes made on the dark journey to adulthood.

About The Author

Donna Tartt was educated at the University of Mississippi and Bennington College, and is the author of a second novel, The Little Friend. She lives in Mississippi and New York City.

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The Secret History : Popular Penguins
 
4.5

(based on 2 reviews)

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5.0

a compelling read

By 

from Thirroul NSW

About Me Bookworm

Pros

  • Deserves Multiple Readings
  • Suspenseful
  • Well Written

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Gift
    • Older Readers
    • Travel Reading

    Comments about The Secret History : Popular Penguins:

    "…people never seemed to notice at first how big Henry was. Maybe it was because of his clothes, which were like one of those lame but curiously impenetrable disguises from a comic book (why does no one ever see that 'bookish' Clark Kent, without his glasses, is Superman?). Or maybe it was a question of his making people see. He had the far more remarkable talent of making himself invisible – in a room, in a car, a virtual ability to dematerialise at will – and perhaps this gift was only the converse of that one: the sudden concentration of his wandering molecules rendering his shadowy form solid, all at once, a metamorphosis startling the viewer."

    The Secret History is the first novel by American author, Donna Tartt. At the age of nineteen, Richard Papen goes to Hampden College in Vermont, primarily to get away from his parents and his depressingly boring hometown of Plano, CA. Having done two years of study in Ancient Greek, he jumps at the opportunity to join an exclusive class of five students studying The Classics under the very selective Julian Morrow.

    Richard is somewhat dazzled by his fellow students: Henry Winter, dark-suited, stiff, aloof and extremely intelligent; Francis Abernathy, angular and elegant; the beautiful twins, Charles and Camilla Macaulay, and Bunny Corcoran, loud and cheery. Never does he dream that within a few months, one of their number will be dead.

    At the centre of this book, both figuratively and literally, is a murder. The narrative is split into two: what led up to the murder, and the aftermath. The story is told by Richard some nine years after he went to Vermont. Tartt advances her story at a slow and careful pace; her characters, flawed and not necessarily appealing, develop as Richard gets to know them; her descriptive prose expertly evokes the atmosphere of the New England college.

    So naturally do events lead into one another that the reader occasionally needs to step back and think: this is murder they are so matter-of-factly discussing. Black humour relieves the tension: the twins, upbraided for their failure to plan a meal, retort "Well, if you wake up intending to murder someone at two o'clock, you hardly think what you're going to feed the corpse for dinner".

    As well as giving the reader plenty to think about (the value of life, self-preservation, friendship any loyalty), there is a plot with a few interesting turns and a quite unexpected climax. Tartt combines the story-telling talent of Stephen King with prose worthy of Wallace Stegner: the result is a compelling read that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

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    4.0

    Awesome Read

    By 

    from Port Macquarie NSW

    About Me Bookworm

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Deserves Multiple Readings
    • Suspenseful
    • Well Written

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Donna Tartt Fans
      • Gift
      • Older Readers
      • Travel Reading

      Comments about The Secret History : Popular Penguins:

      Secret History makes you want to keep reading to see what eventually happens to all the characters

      Comment on this reviewHelp Icon

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      The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history – state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston.

      It is difficult to believe that Henry's modest plan could have worked so well despite these unforeseen events. We hadn't intended to hide the body where it couldn't be found. In fact, we hadn't hidden it at all but had simply left it where it fell in hopes that some luckless passer-by would stumble over it before anyone even noticed he was missing. This was a tale that told itself simply and well: the loose rocks, the body at the bottom of the ravine with a clean break in the neck, and the muddy skidmarks of dug-in heels pointing the way down; a hiking accident, no more, no less, and it might have been left at that, at quiet tears and a small funeral, had it not been for the snow that fell that night; it covered him without a trace, and ten days later, when the thaw finally came, the state troopers and the FBI and the searchers from the town all saw that they had been walking back and forth over his body until the snow above it was packed down like ice.

      It is difficult to believe that such an uproar took place over an act for which I was partially responsible, even more difficult to believe I could have walked through it – the cameras, the uniforms, the black crowds sprinkled over Mount Cataract like ants in a sugar bowl – without incurring a blink of suspicion.

      But walking through it all was one thing; walking away, unfortunately, has proved to be quite another, and though once I thought I had left that ravine forever on an April afternoon long ago, now I am not so sure. Now the searchers have departed, and life has grown quiet around me, I have come to realize that while for years I might have imagined myself to be somewhere else, in reality I have been there all the time: up at the top by the muddy wheel-ruts in the new grass, where the sky is dark over the shivering apple blossoms and the first chill of the snow that will fall that night is already in the air.

      'What are you doing up here?' said Bunny, surprised, when he found the four of us waiting for him.

      'Why, looking for new ferns,' said Henry.

      And after we stood whispering in the underbrush – one last look at the body and a last look round, no dropped keys, lost glasses, everybody got everything? – and then started single file through the woods, I took one glance back through the saplings that leapt to close the path behind me. Though I remember the walk back and the first lonely flakes of snow that came drifting through the pines, remember piling gratefully into the car and starting down the road like a family on vacation, with Henry driving clench-jawed through the potholes and the rest of us leaning over the seats and talking like children, though I remember only too well the long terrible night that lay ahead and the long terrible days and nights that followed, I have only to glance over my shoulder for all those years to drop away and I see it behind me again, the ravine, rising all green and black through the saplings, a picture that will never leave me.

      I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.
      Donna Tartt

      Donna Tartt is a novelist, essayist and critic. Her first novel,The Secret History, was a bestseller and has been published in twenty-three languages. The Little Friend won the WH Smith Literary Award, in the UK, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Tartt's long-awaited third novel, titled The Goldfinch, is set for publication in October 2013 after originally being slated for publication in September 2008. The plot is described thus: "“A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld. Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.”

      Visit Donna Tartt's Booktopia Author Page


      ISBN: 9780141037691
      ISBN-10: 0141037695
      Series: Popular Penguins
      Audience: General
      Format: Paperback
      Language: English
      Number Of Pages: 640
      Published: 1st September 2008
      Country of Publication: GB
      Dimensions (cm): 18.1 x 11.2  x 3.8
      Weight (kg): 18.2
      Edition Number: 1