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The Secret History

Written by: Donna Tartt
Narrated by: Donna Tartt
Length: 22 hrs and 4 mins
4 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The smartest murder-mystery you will ever hear.

A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them. And soon they enter a terrifying heart of darkness from which they may never return.

Penguin Audiobooks presents Donna Tartt's cult thriller The Secret History, complete, unabridged, and read by the author.

©1992 Donna Tartt (P)2010 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Haunting, compelling, brilliant." ( The Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

What a well written and narrated book

I really liked it because of the way it is written but its a slow book. at first, I was close to giving up and then the story builds and grows on you. fabulous narration!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

It was ok.... Didn't like the ending too much

The overall story was very interesting and the narration was pretty good, but was disappointed by the ending of the book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • M. J. Walsh
  • 13-09-16

A compelling, magical experience

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

For anyone interested in the art of writing and the engagement of the reader's imagination this book is a must. At its base narrative level it has been characterized as a sort of superior murder conspiracy thriller playing out in the context of elite scholarship and mysterious alliances at a small New England college. True enough, but it's also so much more than that. Like all the best works of fiction, it expands from its premise to become a richly imagined, unique world of its own. Sure, at times it is uneven, but it is also a book that left me feeling bereft when I finished it. Structured as an outsider's memoir by a writer, now years older, looking back to an earlier time in his life, it mixes morality play, philosophical speculations, a witty critique of mores and class - to name a few of its perspectives - and does so without sacrificing the creation of characters that are vividly present and alive. And these people are not two dimensional. Not at all. They are as strange and unpredictable, as dull and as funny, as fascinating and as disappointing as those around us really are. Death is present, but this book is really about life and the profound mystery we are to ourselves. Finally, as its ultimate pleasure, this recording offers Donna Tartt's deliciously seductive and nuanced reading of her own work. A magical experience. Highly recommended.

What other book might you compare The Secret History to and why?

Donna Tartt's next book "The Little Friend" has some similarities, but it is also very different in other ways. It is more uneven than "The Secret History" and, at times, it does seem over written but there are moments and characters that are truly unforgettable. A book with highs I will never forget. Ever.

As a work that is also structured as an outsider's memoir, my memory of Robert Pirsig's "Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is that it has a similar narrative tone when compared to "The Secret History". But it is quite a few years since I read it.

Have you listened to any of Donna Tartt’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, I've not heard her do any other readings.

If you could take any character from The Secret History out to dinner, who would it be and why?

I'd like to have dinner with Donna Tartt. That would be so interesting and it would be real.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • E. Y. Bae
  • 27-01-19

Apologies but a real grind

Story itself is really cool, better off reading it. i know the narrator is the author but it is read so horribly. especially Bunny, makes you hate all the characters.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-03-17

Disturbing but delicious.

This is my boyfriends favorite book and now it's one of my favorities too! I thoroughly enjoyed it, from start to finish! I found the story and characters interesting. The plot was disturbing but that's what was so great about it! Donna Tartt has to be credited on how she writes, her descriptions are stunning and her style is intriguing. I would definitely recommend this book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Harriet Morris
  • 05-11-16

My Favourite Book

Was a bit doubtful that the author wanted to read it as she is female and the narrator male. What was I worried about? An excellent audio version of a stunning novel especially how she does dialogue

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Stephanie
  • 31-01-11

Dislike- overly long and pointless

The first part could have been eliminated and the rest of it could be sped up. I tried to get into this but I could not.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Cynthia Freeman
  • 22-11-10

Interesting Book

I thought this book was rather better than the other reviewers did. It probably could have been tightened up a bit without damage but I thought the characters were well drawn and the plot was interesting. The narrator did an OK job but she seemed to get mixed up a bit with ascribing East coast accents to the Californian protagonist in places.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Esther
  • 16-11-10

The Secret History

I'm really battling to finish this audio book. its a good story but soooooo long and drawn out. I think the writer should have got a male to read because its mostly men in the story with the odd female here and there. I also find the readers voice extremely distracting and the various voices nasally.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Marjory
  • 09-11-10

ok book.

This book had all the elements of being great, but fell short. The characters were all the same self centered brats who I really had a hard time caring about. The plot went round and round and went no where. Starts off strong then you soon relize its a waste of time.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Meg
  • 11-01-11

Not worth it

Although the story could have kept me involved, having the author narrate was a HUGE mistake. Not only did she not narrate well but the fact that the main character was a male and she is a female was very off putting. The author should NEVER narrate their own books!

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Hazel
  • 16-09-19

20th Century Crime & Punishment

Magnificent first novel by one of America's finest crafts women. Compelling, haunting, sorrowful, & amusing.

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  • mj
  • 06-09-16

An interesting tale

I found this to be an interesting tale, with a good pace, well written characters and a satisfying end.
I did not like the narration though....the story is from a male point of view yet is read by a female. Also I felt the narrator lacked a certain emotional edge to her voice BUT as she is also the author maybe that is as she wanted it to be?

12 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Maria
  • 21-01-11

Brilliant book, terribly badly read

Donna Tartt is a fabulous writer. She is a poor reader though, although she adopts the flat monotone favoured by US narrators (particularly authors) convincingly enough. It isn't inspiring though, just boring - and, as mentioned in other reviews here, not a patch on the wonderful Adam Sims version, which you should try to get hold of if you can.

42 people found this helpful

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  • Judith
  • 16-06-16

amazing book

Absolutely loved this, could not wait to sit down and read/listen along to the audiobook every day. narration is not bad either

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Simon Bird
  • 25-10-16

Great story but....

This is an epic tale, very well crafted and expertly plotted. Unfortunately, as others have already said, the author's narration does not match her writing and I found some stretches quite tedious. It is quite a depressing book but the tension of the key moments is brilliantly done and makes up for the occasional tedium in between. Having also read/listened to The Goldfinch, the style is similar and the characters equally unsympathetic. Nevertheless, I would recommend.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tom
  • 26-01-11

fine book & fine narration

This is a very fine and enjoyable book. The author shows great skill in creating a tense, claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere and in hooking to reader into wanting to know what happens to the fairly unlikeable, self-obsessed group of dysfunctional students.

Unlike some other reviewers, I was pleasantly surprised at how good Donna Tartt was at reading her own book. I too am way about authors reading their own books: writing and narrating are different skills not often found in the same person. Donna Tartt is however an exception. I too have listened to the Adam Sims version, and whilst it is undoubtedly better, I think the author in an odd sort of way better gets under the skin of the main characters - not surprisingly perhaps as she wrote the book! She doesn't maintain the tension and the narrative flow in the same way, possibly because the recording is a bit disjonted - breaks are fairly obvious - but I wouldn't let that put you off. but have a listen to the sample first to make sure you're happy as it is quite a long book.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Tony
  • 14-09-16

Good story, but didn't warm to the characters

Really engaging story, and well read by the author, but I found myself disliking all the characters and not really caring what happened to them, other than hoping that something did happened. Don't get me wrong, it's a really good book, but compared with the goldfinch, where I really liked the protagonist, this was a bit lacking. still, Ms Tartt set the bar bloomin' high with that book, so to compare is unfair.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Srjane
  • 25-07-16

Such a disappointment after the Goldfinch

Would you try another book written by Donna Tartt or narrated by Donna Tartt?

I would buy a book but I found the southern drawl of the narrator irritating and grating although I am not American so this may colour my impression

What will your next listen be?

Probably it was Ready Player One

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The accent was annoying (see previous comment)

What character would you cut from The Secret History?

Not sure I can answer this, I didn't really get a feel for each character. Probably I shouldn't have bought this book - certainly if I hadn't loved the Goldfinch so much I might not have.

Any additional comments?

The hook at the beginning of the story seems to have been stuck on as an afterthought - the structure of the story seemed a bit off.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-07-16

authors should stick to writing

Great story well told but irritated by flat delivery....authors reading their own books not a great idea.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Cat
  • 04-06-16

Enchanting

A really well written piece of art. Wonderful story telling that had me gripped from start to finish. Highly recommended!

3 people found this helpful

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  • MinnieMo
  • 17-12-15

Not sure what the fuss is about!

Chosen as a book club read, I tried to read the book and found it dry so decided to give audible a go. Managed to listen to it. The narrator has a monotone voice. No expression, no variation in voice for the characters so I had to go skip back frequently to keep up with the story. The book in itself is long, far too much detail and lack of plot. It could be half the length and needs more pace. I felt depressed listening to it. A bunch of hopeless non developed characters that are in a non believable scenario. Even the intrigue around the tutor was left open, unexplained. I wouldn't recommend the book or the audio version and I can't say I want to read anything else by Donna Tartt. Harsh maybe but I'm glad that ordeal is over!

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Catherine A Mercer
  • 03-10-16

Donna Tartt narrates

I love Donna Tartt's writing. The Secret History did not disappoint. However I did not enjoy the voice of Donna in this audiobook. Her male characters are completely believable as she writes them but as a female narrator, it just doesn't work as well as it could. The Goldfinch with male narrator was so much more immersive

5 people found this helpful

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  • Agincourt
  • 07-11-17

Painfully dull

I listened to this book for 8 hours waiting for something interesting to happen - it didn't. I couldn't face the prospect of another 13 hours of listless meandering prose, so I returned it.

Maybe this is an injustice and the 2nd half of the book is really exciting...but I have my doubts.

Also it doesn't help that the book is read by a woman (the author) yet the main protagonist is a man - her voice really doesn't gel with the narrative.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Pamela Taverniti
  • 08-05-18

Dreadful narration

The narration of this book was so bad - had a tinny sound and very poor quality - so much so that it was distracting fdrom the book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Marita
  • 27-11-17

Wow! What an ordeal!

Well, I'm glad that's over. It was very long, but I think that was probably part of the book's strength. It forced you to experience the emotion of the whole story. It made me never, ever, want to do something bad to another person. Also made me resolve to keep clear of bad company and not be gullible. The author achieved quite a lot by doing that. Very well constructed. I would read another of her books, but I hope the next will be different to this one. Too exhausting!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-11-17

Lord of the Flies Plato-Style

Donna Tartt managed to have me feeling both distaste and warmth for her characters, and both understanding and abhorrence for their actions. This was an interesting exploration of character and small-group dynamic within a university setting. If I knew more about the Ancient Greeks and Plato's teachings and methods in particular, then I would have got more out of the novel. I feel a bit like I missed something important. Happily, at times Tartt lays her ancient inspirations out plainly.

My main criticisms are that I felt the story dragged a little at times, and that it took me a long time to stop being distracted by a female voice reading what are overwhelmingly male characters, including the narrator (as opposed to the audiobook narrator, who was the author).

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mary
  • 10-10-17

Male narrator needed

The female voice made me picture the characters to look like fat Harry Potters rather than the tall, athletic intellectuals they were supposed to be.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Carrie
  • 28-04-17

Great story terrible narration

Loved the story but found the narration did not do it justice. I would not purchase another story narrated Donna Tartt.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-02-17

Captivating.

I have read this book many times over the years and it remains a firm favourite. The narration by Donna Tartt was captivating and really brought the story and each character to life. I didn't want it to end!

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • F
  • 18-10-16

The author is not the ideal narrator.

I tried to get into the story but I just found it dull with little clear narrative. The authors voice was hard to follow.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Melinda
  • 24-03-15

Literary baroque

An ornate folly. A story of deluded youth and the mystique of college adventures resonate through life. Wonderful. Exceptional. Lush and detailed narration.

3 people found this helpful