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Beautiful Shadow

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  591 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
The life of Patricia Highsmith was as secretive and unusual as that of many of the best-known characters who people her "peerlessly disturbing" thrillers and short stories. Yet even as her work has found new popularity in the last few years, the life of this famously elusive writer has remained a mystery. For "Beautiful Shadow," the first biography of Highsmith, British jo ...more
ebook, 544 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published June 2nd 2003)
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Andrew Wilson's Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith is a comprehensive piece of reportage. Given access to the author's abundance of personal diaries, working journals, correspondence, and the many living acquaintances (family, friends, neighbors, publishers, lovers) quite willing to go on the record, you would expect little less. Yet the fundamental labor of the true biographer, at least from my perspective, is to go beyond the facts, beyond the proofs, beyond the dry history of a li ...more
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, biography, usa
Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) is best known for her disturbing books about sensitive and sympathetic psychopathic murderers (i.e. "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley") - and for the movies they've inspired. Andrew Wilson's biography is fascinating, well researched and convincing; I don't know if I'd want to have dinner with Miss Highsmith, but at least I think I can understand a little "where she's coming from." The author Wilson would probably make a good novelist himself; he u ...more
Jon Ureña
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, biographies
A few years ago I found a quote (I love quotes), by a certain Amy Hempel, that intrigued me:

"I read about a famous mystery writer who worked for one week in a department store. One day she saw a woman come in and buy a doll. The mystery writer found out the woman’s name, and took a bus to New Jersey to see where the woman lived. That was all. Years later, she referred to this woman as the love of her life. It is possible to imagine a person so entirely that the image resists attempts to dislodg
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ten pages into the book and I already prefer this far more than the Joan Schenkar bio. I could do without Wilson's exhaustive itineraries of Highsmith's European travels, which are over documented to the point of tedium and for the most part do not shed any light on her writing, except in a few scattered instances. Nevertheless, Andrew Wilson delves quite deftly into Pat's eventual descent into madness.
Michael Martin
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Wilson's Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith is a thorough look into the life and literary output of Patricia Highsmith. He documents (in sometimes too great detail) every quirk and eccentricity of the author's life, from her dozens of fragmented relationships, her stalking of women she barely knew, and her brusque unpleasantness towards almost everyone she ever came in contact yet.

Still, I found the book quite interesting, and fleshed out the personal demons which drove her to
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All Highsmith fans
Recommended to Christine by: Amazon recommendation based on books that I've purchased.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
So far so good. I am on page 250. From some of the reviews I thought PH would be portrayed as an absolutely horrid person. She isn't. She was eccentric and quite self involved. Maybe on the next 250 pages she becomes evil. (She becomes a little more horrid as she ages.)

This was one of the greatest Biographies I have ever read. It was interesting and moved quickly. This biography also had to use every psychological theory on the planet to explain Highsmith's bizarre behavior. She really did not
Jun 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Patricia Highsmith
I became interested in Patricia Highsmith after reading The Price of Salt. That book stayed with me. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I wanted to know more about it's author so I picked this up. It took me almost three weeks to read this. I don't generally like biographies or autobiographies but I am glad I endured and read this. It went through her work and life chapter by chapter and though I am unfamiliar with her other work, the exception being The Talented Mr. Ripley, it was never boring ...more
Jun 18, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: completedreading

Patricia Highsmith's biography was just published. Recently deceased, she wrote very popular murder fiction most famously The Talented Mr. Ripley and succeeding novels about the maybe homosexual murderer and con artist Tom Ripley. In my quest to read about the lives of women famous in their own right, she is definitely a strong example: a lesbian, she never married nor settled down with a lover, was not close to either parent, and as far as I can see owes her entire fame solely to her own determ
James Perkins
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You may not have heard of Patricia Highsmith, but you've almost definitely seen the films Strangers on a Train or The Talented Mr Ripley, which were based on two of her most famous novels. I read this book on the advice of a literary magazine, and I can honestly say that it is one of the best biographies I have ever read. It was meticulously researched and extremely well-written, providing a model to all of us of what a good non-fiction book should be. Author Andrew Wilson did not try to avoid t ...more
Apr 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Highsmith fans
This book was on my reading list for at about two years. It won an award, and is extensive, with a bounty of interesting insights about the psychology that motivated Highsmith's writing.

It was also exhausting, clunky and suffered from being obsessive and at times boring. I tried to be a dutiful reader because I have long admired the myth of Patricia Highsmith, but after a while, I lost interest in Highsmith's failings in relationships, and lost patience waiting to see how the million experience
Karen Pullen
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like to read biographies of writers; the best reveal how the unique personality and soul of the writer filters her talent, hard work, and dedication onto the page. Wilson accomplishes this goal in this beautifully written book. Wilson had access to her years of detailed journals, so this is as complete as picture as one could hope for.

It's hard to read parts of Beautiful Shadow because Highsmith was obviously a troubled woman, misanthropic, alcoholic and prone to serial passionate relationship
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
For all your faults, imperfections, problematic beliefs, and amorality, thanks for the unique perspective, for Tom Ripley, and most of all for Carol and Therese. Thank you for giving their relationship a happy conclusion even if that was one that's denied to you your whole life. You may not believe that it can happen nor that you deserve it, but thanks for the generosity.
In death, we cease to exist. You may have died alone but I'd like to think that you lived your life the way you wanted.
Nov 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tragic life, very detailed bio of Patricia Highsmith based on her own diaries, notebooks and friends testimony. Wilson also covers the writing and shaping of her novels and short stories attaching them to her life's struggles. Amazing woman, tragic, ahead of her time...Highsmith was a force to be reckoned with to say the least.
Simona Moschini
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto-biografie
Sono lieta di poter dire che ha soddisfatto le mie più alte aspettative: stile brillante, equilibrata, documentatissima, attenta alla vita privata senza scadere nel gossip, questa biografia è un esempio di come si dovrebbero scrivere tutti i saggi del genere.

Colpisce, in un'epoca come la nostra, che ha fatto dell'attenzione per la cronaca nera, il sangue, la morbosità la sua cifra, scoprire che la Highsmith (più negli Usa che in Europa) in vita non vendette mai a livelli da best seller. Spesso,
Shawn MacKenzie
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating subject. Highsmith was a troubled, often conflicted woman who managed to chanel all that into her dark, dark writing. A good, if at times plodding biography. Worth the time for Highsmith fans out there
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemly comprehensive
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Wilson's biography of Patricia Highsmith is an engaging read from start to finish. He pays his subject the compliment of using prose as clear as her own to tell her story. Highsmith was a devoted diarist, letter writer, and keeper of detailed notebooks of all her background writing work. Andrew Wilson draws on all of this material plus his own interviews with many of her acquaintances, friends and lovers to produce a very detailed narrative of her life. He presents the testimony, opinion ...more
O Babs
First I was a fan and avid reader of Highsmith novels. When I wanted to understand more about the mind who created these chilling tales of the "Sociopath Next Door," I looked for a biography. This was published a year or so after I began looking. Great timing, Mr. Wilson!

Highsmith's life was tortuous and at times tortured. While she was still in her mother's womb, her mother drank turpentine in a vain effort at self-abortion. It failed, but the story persisted, and Patricia Highsmith grew up kno
Ubor Metenga
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Güzel Gölge", Andrew Wilson'ın hazırladığı Patricia Highsmith biyografisi.

Verdiği röportajlarda ketumluğuyla ve huysuzluğuyla nam salsa da, günlük tutma konusunda oldukça disiplinli ve detaycı olan, karşılaştığı olaylarla, insanlarla ilgili en ufak ayrıntıları bile not etmeye üşenmeyen, dahası arkadaşlarına, editörlerine, ailesine - özellikle annesine - sayfalarca süren mektuplar yazan, kendisine gelen mektupları da büyük bir titizlikle arşivleyen bu huysuz kadının hemen her dönemine ışık tutan
Jan 24, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give up, after 351 pages of Andrew Wilson’s biography on Patricia Highsmith, with a hundred and fourteen more to go. Highsmith is getting too mean and crazy as she gets older and I had enough. I wished that I had skipped the first part of the book that traces her childhood and adolescence, which was the weakest part of the biography, and saved my energy for the end instead. The problem of biography writing, the forcing of life into one story, is most apparent when Andrew Wilson tries to explai ...more
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read many biographies, but have been driven in some cases by interest in the lives of authors I enjoy. Once again, I am confirmed in my opinion that I would be quite happy never meeting those who create works I love. (One monumental undertaking was the three-volume bio of Graham Greene, unsurprisingly a huge fan of Patricia Highsmith.)

Given the characters she creates, with their indifferent approach to morality, Ms. Highsmith's social diffidence and misanthropy is not surprising. Peopl
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A very sad book about one of my favorite mystery writers. Wilson's relating of Highsmith life reads like a tragedy--so much intelligence and charisma seemingly unfocused and therefore less effective than a more disciplined writer may have accomplished. If there any credence can be placed in this biography, Highsmith was a character consumed by her own passion, and delayed by her own dalliance.

Still, with such writings as the Ripliad to her credit, the woman produced more good writing than most
Ruth Brumby
It is sometimes much better for a writer to content himself with a simple narrative of events - Dostoevsky, quoted by Highsmith. Andrew Wilson comments that this is a wise piece of advice for any biographer, but he does not always manage to follow it; he falls into the trap of making judgements on a range of matters from the apparently anonymous and authoritative perspective of 'the biographer' .I perhaps noticed this even more because of recently reading Threads and The Biographer's Tale and Ed ...more
Dense small type over 460+ pages of my library borrowed paperback made this one a bit of a slog. Bit repetitive as each chapter typically deals with Highsmith's life during the period of writing a book. Enjoyed the early chapters of her childhood, captures a lot of life in the States (split between Texas and NYC) during the early decades of the twentieth century. Albeit this is supplemented with some more general material of 'life at the time'.

Great as a record of Highsmith's life, beliefs, weir
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Find it hard to know how to rate this book in terms of stars. It's extremely well researched and written. Depressing. Interesting. Depressing. ha.
Mary Dee
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read most everything that Patricia Highsmith has published over the last decade or so. I have also read the other biographies written about her. IMHO, Beautiful Shadow is the best of the lot. Highsmith was a highly gifted and yet extremely complex study in opposites. People loved her work, but a majority of those who knew her personally found her abusive and self-deluded. Ultimately, she left this country altogether to live anonymously in Switzerland. The final straw (for me!) was finding ...more
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Andrew Wilson delves with clarity into the detail of the life of writer Patricia Highsmith and presents her 'warts and all'.

This is how one of Highsmith's friends described her: "She never showed her feelings and I never knew what she thought of me. If someone reached out to touch or greet her she would always take one or two steps back. Yet her face was full of life and everything she thoguht or felt you could see in her eyes.'

It was a fascinating insight into Highsmith's creative process and
Austen to Zafón
I've enjoyed Highsmith's books and I knew that she was a difficult person. This book portrays her compassionately, but realistically. She wasn't always kind to those around her and she had many anxieties and dark thoughts. If you've read any of her books, you'd guess as much! The 50's were a difficult time to be a lesbian and having to hide her relationships didn't help. The biographer did extensive research, (even going as far as finding out who "Carol," the object of infatuation in The Price o ...more
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
I liked this biography. It is apparently not the best one out. For people familiar with Strangers on a Train by Hitchcock Hightsmith is the writer as she is of many other novels based on her books. As I read the book, I realized that Wilson did not get the difference between anti-semitic and anti-Israel. Highsmith except for her predictable prejudice against blacks and urban problems was a doctrinaire liberal of the Roosevelt era. Her insistence on existential approach for the artist, her devoti ...more
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About himself:

"I'm a journalist and author. My work has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, the Sunday Times, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the New Statesman and the Evening Standard magazine."

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