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I love this book. It's one of my favorites and I've read it over 3 times. The first time I read it, it had just been released and I was about the same age as the protagonists. It's beautifully written. I completely understand Richard wanting to belong to this group of students and the remorse and sadness he feels years later. There are shades of Brideshead Revisited in it and The Magus.


I was very disappointed in this book and gave up at the 65th page! Apart from the story, the font which was used for the book I got was terrible. A tiny tiny font which made reading very difficult.


Congratulations on you 1000th post! Quite the milestone.

This was a re-read for me. I read it the first time in the mid-nineties. I do think it is a good book and was worth the re-read (something I rarely do – so many books, so little time). I found Richard’s attraction to the group and their eventual acceptance of him very believable. I appreciate how the reader is drawn in, seduced really, by the story. It has such great detail and richness. Had I know people like them in college, I would have wanted to learn Greek and be their friend too. Heck, I want to go to Francis’ aunt’s house for the weekend now (minus the bacchanal and all the drinking. I’ll take a diet Pepsi, please)! Ultimately, however, the book left me feeling a bit empty both times; maybe because of the aloofness of the characters or their amorality. It is not as if I were expecting any moral comeuppance or a happy end either, but the end left me a little deflated. And yes, I am interested in reading The Little Friend now. I am curious to see how it compares.

Susie Vereker

To answer your last question first, yes I loved The Little Friend and preferred it to The Secret History. The latter was a re-read for me and I was reluctant to pick it up. When I began it I remembered why: it's so seductive a book that one finds oneself somehow complicit in a murder. Of course it's wonderfully written and erudite. On a second read though, the students did seem so strangely old-fashioned and so cut off from all modern influences that I kept wondering about the period it was meant to be set. 'Beauty is terror' indeed. A Greek tragedy.
Maybe I'll read The Little Friend again soon. Thanks, Cornflower, for the suggestion.


Brideshead hadn't occurred to me, but you're right, Mrs. B! (So long since I've read The Magus that I have only a dim recollection of it).
Very good to hear that The Secret History can stand repeated readings.


That's a pity. Can't win 'em all!


Did anyone else find themselves feeling "deflated", as Ruthiella says, or "complicit", as Susie mentions? I can see what they mean.
Still with Susie's comment, "seductive" is an apt description.


I loved this book when I read it in the 90's, and plan to re-read (perhaps when I am in my 90's and my TBR pile is a more manageable size).

When I see someone reading it I actually feel jealous of them - it enveloped me, which few books have done since. I can still remember when he sees the tutor's room for the first time, the pens on the desk, the papers. I can see how he was seduced by it all.

The Little Stranger sounds a bit plot-less, but I will get around to it one day. I read somewhere that it took Ms Tartt 10 years to write Secret History, and I can quite see why.


The first time I read this book I could hardly put it down. I still enjoyed a second read and would put it on my 'books I will always want to read again' list. I will however quote my daughter (don't think she reads this!), who after reading The Secret History declared sarkily that *she* had managed to read classics at a Top University without becoming 'a pretentious w****r'! So much for the characters, then.

I was terribly disappointed in The Little Friend. At the end of the book *you don't find out what happened*. I hate these unresolved plots.


Congratulations on 1,000 posts Cornflower and thanks for the choice of this book. I enjoyed it and bored all my friends solid with discussions of the desire to fit into a group and how far we will go to achieve this. That the group had not in fact assimilated Richard totally and that the 1st person narrative was used to conceal this, was a clever idea, I thought.

It did feel like Brideshead Revisited meets The Dead Poets Society and some pruning in the section after the climax would have been helpful, especially since I found the ending excellent, having given up hope of there being a good finale.

I seem to be a sucker for books about characters who 'dont fit in' and I was absorbed by the plot and ideas, even although I did not like any of the characters (which is usually a deal breaker for me).


"Enveloped" - exactly!


Thank goodness real-life classics students are nothing like their fictional counterparts! I remember my own Latin teachers, Miss Burns and Miss Gerrard, fine upstanding Scots ladies, both, and more recently, the delightful Madeline Miller, classics graduate and teacher: It was her mention of this book which prompted me to choose it.


Yes, good point about disliking the characters and how that can make us abandon a book - but not this one.
The whole 'group membership' aspect is very interesting and very well done.

adele geras

Just popped in to say well done for the 1000th post. I've loved all of them. And I love Secret History too. Couldn't read it this time as have just read Double Shadow for review. Loved that too! To the next 1000, I say!

Susan in TX

Congrats on the 1000th post. I've been missing y'all for the last few books. Busyness is eating into my reading time to much to hit deadlines, but I hope to be back with you for some next year. I'm still popping in for the discussions. :)

Mr Cornflower

Very interesting book, long and gripping like a Vermont winter. I had to read it in a hurry to meet a demanding deadline but this was not a problem as the narrative drive is generally very well sustained. There were some things I found surprising/unconvincing: Bunny is described as academically mediocre, how does he join/survive a small self-styled elite clique reading a difficult technical subject? Such minor flaws, and the rather excessive length, could perhaps have been dealt with by more vigorous editing. And it's not always clear whether the prodigious scattering of literary references is consciously parodying the pretensions of the characters or unconsciously parodying the insecurities of the author. But it's dramatic and slyly funny ("Do television sets cost a lot of money?" asked Charles) and for those reasons I liked it.


Congratulations on your 1000th post. I love the variety and joie de vivre of your blog.

Like Ruthiella, I was disappointed by the ending of The Secret History. It seemed designed to meet the author's need for something dramatic. It didn't feel credible and it was disappointing not to be able to see all the characters go off into adult life.
But I thought the group itself was entirely credible. Students who don't watch TV and appear stuck somewhere in the era of Louis MacNiece do exist - I studied with some similar types myself! Their intellectual snobbery and desire for experience came across as very real. The insularity and intensity of the group is the real success of the novel.


The Secret History was a first time read for me. Initially I was reminded of the Pride of Miss Jean Brody and then the echos of Brideshead Revisited appeared within the plot, both of which I read years ago.

I liked the book and found it totally absorbing and it has been ages since a book has held my full attention like that. I haven't read the Little Friend yet, it's on my tbr list.

Congratualations Cornflower on your 1000th post. I love both your blogs.

Barbara MacLeod

I am in complete agreement. I did not know the book and it was just up my street, as they say. I loved it. I puzzled early on as to what era she set the story as a lot I recognized as being of my university period in the 1960s but found references to events etc 10 and 20 years later.

After I finished it I still was left with the nagging feeling ... would a group of people that size really ALL be able to brush away what they did and go on as long as they did without being discovered?

Oh ... one thing that I noted: someone needs to point out to the publishers that it is Scotch "whisky" and Irish "whiskey"!

Thank you again for this one; I will definitely read more.


So glad to hear that joie de vivre comes across!


I hadn't thought about the similarities with Miss Brodie, but you're right!


I'd never read Donna Tartt before, and I loved the way she writes. The Secret History was so was eruditeand steeped in knowledge of the classics that by the end I had a list of facts to be checked out and books to be discovered or revisited.

The Secret History definitely has echoes of Brideshead, but there are similarities with Naomi Alderman’s The Lessons and The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst which also revolve around an outsider seduced by the surface glamour of an elite group where the central character has a fatal flaw, and lives fall apart as the real world intrudes on their enchanted circle.

Barbara MacLeod

I have just finished reading The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch and what you say above resonated in relation to an outsider being seduced ... fatal flaw ... enchanted circle.


I haven't read The Flight from the Enchanter - in fact it's a very long time indeed since I've read any Iris Murdoch. I'll add this to my list, and maybe re-read The Bell.Thank you!

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