Strangers on a Train
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Strangers on a Train

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  5,043 ratings  ·  377 reviews
Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. "Some people are better off dead," Bruno remarks, "like your wife and my father, for instance." As Bruno carries out his twist...more
Paperback, 281 pages
Published August 28th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1950)
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Community Reviews

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Delee
When I was in my 20s- living in Toronto and traveling on the train to visit my parents 4 hours away- I always thought there was nothing worse than trying to read my book while having some annoying fellow passenger try to start a conversation...but then I watched Alfred Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and realized- Nope it could have been worse.

I usually have a hard time reading the book once I have watched the movie, but Patricia Highsmith's novel is very different than Hitchcock's adaptation...more
Catie
Why is it so much easier to unburden yourself to a stranger? Is it that awareness of anonymity? Is it the knowledge that this person has no history, no preconceived notions upon which you might be judged? Whatever the underlying reason, I’ve always found this to be true. I’m pretty sure that the entire realm of internet communication is so prevalent in part because of this truth. In this unforgettable work, Patricia Highsmith examines the sinister outcome of a chance meeting, and a momentary int...more
Leslie
This was another fun airport read because it is all about the perils of oversharing with strangers on public transportation. This is like literary B.O. for travelers, I'm sure. If only I had a Team Bruno shirt to don (and sully with literary b.o. pit stains!) in the air.

This book explores a nightmarish scenario: you wind up sitting next to a creep who'll ply you with scotch, force you into the confession zone and try to seduce you into a murder pact (e.g., you bump off my father and I'll make wo...more
Eric_W
It's perhaps ironic that, having read all of the Ripley novels years ago and loved them, that I would only now get around to reading (listening, actually) to Strangers on a Train. The basic plot must, by now, be well-known to just about everyone. For the three of you who don't know the story, two men meet while having drinks on a train and discuss their respective complaints about Bruno's father and Guy's ex-wife, both of whom are making their respective lives miserable.

Bruno, hatches a one-side...more
Marvin
I was surprised to find out how different the original novel is from the excellent Hitchcock film. Hitchcock went for suspense and thrills which necessitated substantial changes to the original story. In Highsmith's equally excellent novel, Bruno remains the quintessential rich spoiled psychopath yet Guy is a much more complex character. He is still naive but more intelligent (he is an architect in the novel and not a tennis bum). He is also not as morally strict and this is where the tension ar...more
Darwin8u
I put off watching the great Hitchcock's take on this Highsmith classic until I actually read it. The books has a neat narrative symmetry and logic to it. It contains a lot of the early hints of some of her later, great Ripley novels: obsessiveness, insanity, meticulous crimes, impulsiveness, boats, doppelgängers, homoeroticism, art, food, etc.

I didn't enjoy it as much as the Ripley novels, but even without knowing the great body of work to follow this one book, 'Strangers on a Train' contains...more
Jill
A warning......if you have seen the Hitchcock film with Robert Walker and Farley Granger, don't expect the book to follow the same storyline. The novel has the basic premise of "exchanging murders" but goes in an entirely different direction with a much darker denouement. The film always struck me as having some plot holes regarding the actions of the Guy Haines character...........the book, with a different focus, fills in those inconsistencies.
It is a very disturbing and twisted story of two m...more
Brian

One of the few instances where the movie is better than the book.
TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
Strangers On a Train by Patricia Highsmith is a book that’s far too often neglected today. In fact, it’s so neglected that many people don’t even know it is a book. For this, of course, I blame Alfred Hitchcock - more or less. His film adaptation was so brilliantly done (though in some significant ways, very different from the book) that people interested in Strangers On a Train simply watch the film rather than read the book. I should know. I was once one of them. The book is so good, however,...more
Marieke


A small warning for fans of the film who haven't read the book yet: the book and the film are quite a bit different. Both are psychological thrillers, but only one carries the suspense all the way through (the film). Three stars is not a bad rating, but since i was expecting to be more creeped out reading this book than i ultimately was, i can't give it the four stars i was anticipating during the first 2/3s of the book when the tension and suspense was building. Although the narrative created a...more
Anastasia
Tutto parte da un'interessante situazione: due uomini, Guy (tanto per appioppare ingiuste etichette di approssimativa definizione, è quello buono) e Bruno (quello cattivo) si incontrano per la prima volta su un treno. Bruno s'attacca come un'ameba a Guy finché raccontando della propria vita - dove il padre è l'oggetto a cui sembrerebbe puntare tutto il suo insistente odio - e ascoltando le poche parole laconiche e guardinghe di Guy - che parla vagamente di una pressante ex-moglie da cui vorrebbe...more
Jeff
Whew. Midway through this novel I realized I had continued reading because of a hideous compulsion to exorcise its proceedings from my mind. Reading for pleasure or entertainment was no longer a component to the experience. I couldn't stop reading because I would allow neither the story nor the characters to become completely swallowed by the moral abyss without any attempt by the writer to illuminate their struggles in a "meaningful" way, but that motivation was driven more by sick fascination...more
Lauren Henderson
I had to read this book for a Comp class in college, and I was pleasantly surprised. Since when do professors pick awesome books for forced reading? It really got me into crime fiction. I'm kind of a nerd, but I loved writing my literary analysis of this book. We studied it in parallel to Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. Both are very intriguing books.
Sam Quixote
SPOILERS

Right, I must be missing something here because no other reviewers have mentioned the glaring plotholes in the book. The whole premise of the book is that the two characters meet, Guy and Bruno, Guy is the good one Bruno is the mad one, and they talk. Bruno finds out Guy is getting divorced and hates his ex-wife. We learn that Bruno is bonkers, a boozer, a bit of an adolescent despite being mid 20s, is in love with his mother - he admires his mother's legs at one point, thinking no othe...more
Chris

I wanted to like this more, but I couldn't. Two shifting narrators and I didn't like either one of them. Also the concept of a good person being psychologically coerced into an evil action by a sociopath has been done better. Specifically, I could not help but compare this novel unfavorably to James M. Cain's Double Indemnity which burns white hot and leaves the reader shaken and stunned. In Cain's brilliant noir masterpiece we are propelled, squirming and almost afraid to continue, through the...more
Tom Meade
Patricia Highsmith's first novel, in which she manages to bring to the table all of the painstaking characterisation and psychological minutae of her later books, while at the same time failing to create any of the tension.

I don't know if it's fair to call Strangers On A Train a thriller - really, it's more of a crime melodrama. The two characters meet, one seemingly sane while the other is obviously unhinged. Rich, petulant, Dostoevskian Charlie Bruno meets architect Guy Haines and suggests th...more
Deb
The premise is fascinating, but something about the way this was written made it hard for me to get into. Two gentleman meet on a train. One, Guy, latches on to the other and after a bit of conversation learns that he wants to divorce his wife and marry his mistress. Guy suggests that since he too has someone he would like to get rid of (his father) the perfect solution would be for each to murder the others nemesis--since each woud have no obvious motive there would be no way they would be susp...more
Arah-Lynda
I went into this already familiar with Hitchcock’s film version of the same story. The opening premise of the film and HighSmith’s novel are the same. Two strangers meet on the train and discuss among other things, people in their lives: a Wife, a Father, who they would be better off without. One of these strangers, Charles Bruno, is an extremely well imagined sociopath, while the other, Guy, is a mild mannered architect whose role in this story I never entirely accept. (view spoiler)...more
Laura
One of the most interesting books I've read. While an old one, it was still exciting for me, the tension palpable. Guy's almost-there-conflict made me want to reach through the pages and shake him once in a while and oh man, Bruno. How do I begin to describe Bruno. Bruno is one of my favourite antagonists of all time, honestly! Weirdly obsessed with ~doing things~ and clinging to Guy and making Guy do things, under the thumb of his strange mother he grows to be twitchy and out of tune with the w...more
Andy
Strangers on a train, exchanging glances...do-be-du-be-doo...The world is full, no, over-populated with books and movies about crazy guys sexually stalking girls, all of them without friends or brothers to protect them (where are these girls and how can I meet them?), but there are few books about crazy guys sexually stalking other guys. How Alfred Hitchcock distilled this homosexual nightmare into a crime thriller is a major work of genius, but so is this brilliant work by the great Highsmith....more
Jack
Oct 30, 2013 Jack rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
I can't say enough good things about this book. This isn't a thriller in the whodunit sense. You know right away who the killer is. Still, Highsmith keeps elevating the tension throughout the book, which studies the effects of guilt and ego upon the commission of the perfect crime. The characters are interesting, and the book's quick pace keeps you reading to the end. Anyone who has read Crime and Punishment will see a lot of Dostoevsky's influence here, and Strangers on a Train holds up very we...more
Sheila Beaumont
I was mesmerized by this creepy, suspenseful story of a sociopath (Bruno) and how he gets a fellow train passenger (Guy) to swap murders with him, i.e., each will kill a person the other would like out of his life, so there will be no apparent motive for the murders.

After reading this novel, I watched the Hitchcock movie based on it. I don't want to introduce any spoilers, so I'll just say that in the book, I didn't find what Guy did credible. The movie was more believable in this respect, and f...more
Brian
You know the hook, right? Two men meet for the first time on a train. One of them is respectable, conventional, the other is excitable and a little deranged. The first man (Guy Haines) wants a divorce from his cheating wife, who is in no hurry to give it to him, especially now that his career is beginning to take off. The second man (Charles Bruno) despises his father and wants him dead. They converse. And Bruno hatches a plan: what if, he says, he were to kill Guy's wife and Guy, in turn, were...more
Tosh
It's the chance enounters that will get you! I read this book while traveling through Europe, and while reading it, I kept myself separate from all the other fellow travelers. Good advice from Highsmith!

But seriously this is a fantastic book about the nature of relationships and how something little becomes huge. Highsmith has the knack to get underneath the human skin and penatrate - and it's scary!
Ann
The basis for the movie of the same name, this book is a perfect example of Highsmith's stock in trade - not-very-bloody violence that is just like the other activities of her characters. Through extensive interior dialogues, we become part of her characters' worlds. When she's at her best, as in the Ripley books, we almost collude with Tom as he dispatches people with a logic that is hard to refute.
Pamela B
I'm not much of a film fan, but I remember the Hitchcock movie based on this book from over 40 years ago. A very well-written suspenseful book that pulled me along reluctantly as I don't handle suspense all that well, LOL.
Joanna
4-1/2 stars. A few adverbs jumped out at me: "boredly" at least twice. Other than that, extremely well done. When I find myself hoping the protagonist will see the thing I see, I am impressed.
Mimi
Good and quite enjoyable if you buy into the whole "strangers hitting it off and over-sharing life stories in public" premise. Not so good or enjoyable if you find all of that unbelievable.
Kelanth, numquam risit ubi dracones vivunt
Questo "Sconosciuti in treno" è il primo romanzo della Highsmith (divenuta famosa per la straordinaria invenzione di un personaggio magnifico come Ripley), è del 1950 e alla sua prima apparizione negli Stati Uniti non riscuote un grande successo; tuttavia il grande regista Alfred Hitchcock ne fa il soggetto per il suo film "L'altro uomo". Libro e film, nel caso voleste procurarveli entrambi, sono però diversi.

La storia che esce dalle pagine di questo libro è straordinaria. La trama, implacabile...more
Marie
I haven't seen the famous Hitchcock adaptation of this book (who knows why, because I love Hitchcock films) but I always thought I knew exactly what the story was about. Two strangers meet on a train and agree to 'swap' victims, allowing each of them to get away with the perfect murder, right? But actually, the novel runs much deeper than that.

Guy Haines finds himself in a situation that any regular user of public transport will be familiar with. He is on a train going to visit his estranged wif...more
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Classic Trash: Book vs. Movie 2 10 May 27, 2013 03:59PM  
Classic Trash: * Strangers on a Train: Finished (Spoilers) 5 7 May 18, 2013 01:37PM  
Classic Trash: * Strangers on a Train: In Progress (No Spoilers) 2 6 May 13, 2013 04:05PM  
Help Me Find the Next Great One! 4 32 Apr 23, 2013 12:19PM  
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7622
Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist who is known mainly for her psychological crime thrillers which have led to more than two dozen film adaptations over the years.

She lived with her grandmother, mother and later step-father (her mother divorced her natural father six months before 'Patsy' was born and married Stanley Highsmith) in Fort Worth before moving with her parents to New York in...more
More about Patricia Highsmith...
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ripley, #1) The Price of Salt Ripley's Game (Ripley, #3) Ripley Under Ground (Ripley, #2) The Boy Who Followed Ripley (Ripley, #4)

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“I know you have it in you, Guy," Anne said suddenly at the end of a silence, "the capacity to be terribly happy.” 14 likes
“But there were too many points at which the other self could invade the self he wanted to preserve, and there were too many forms of invasion: certain words, sounds, lights, actions his hands or feet performed, and if he did nothing at all, heard and saw nothing, the shouting of some triumphant inner voice that shocked him and cowed him.” 13 likes
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