Donna Tartt won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent Novel. The Goldfinch Her novelsl The Secret History and The Little Friend were also international bestsellers. She was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College.
This well-written first novel attempts to be several things: a psychological suspense thriller, a satire of collegiate mores and popular culture, and a philosophical bildungsroman. Supposedly brilliant students at a posh Vermont school (Bennington in thin disguise) are involved in two murders, one supposedly accidental and one deliberate. The book's many allusions, both literary and classical (the students are all classics majors studying with a professor described as both a genius and a deity) fail to provide the deeper resonance of such works as Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose . Ultimately, it works best as a psychological thriller. Expect prepublication hype to generate interest in this book and buy accordingly. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.-- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
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.)
"The Secret History succeeds magnificently. . . . A remarkably powerful novel [and] a ferociously well-paced entertainment. . . . Forceful, cerebral, and impeccably controlled." --The New York Times
"An accomplished psychological thriller. . . . Absolutely
chilling. . . . Tartt has a stunning command of the lyrical."
--The Village Voice "Beautifully written, suspenseful from start
to finish." --Vogue "A haunting, compelling, and brilliant
piece of fiction. . . . Packed with literary allusion and told with
a sophistication and texture that owes much more to the nineteenth
century than to the twentieth." --The Times (London) "Her
writing bewitches us. . . . The Secret History is a
wonderfully beguiling book, a journey backward to the fierce and
heady friendships of our school days, when all of us believed in
our power to conjure up divinity and to be forgiven any sin."
--The Philadephia Inquirer "Enthralling. . . . A remarkably
powerful novel [and] a ferociously wll-paced entertainment. . . .
Forceful, cerebral, and impeccably controlled." --The New York
Times Book Review "A huge, mesmerizing, galloping read, pleasurably
devoured. . . . .Gorgeously written, relentlessly erudite."