Judy's Reviews > The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
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's review
May 03, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: suspense, mystery, american-novel, award-winner, italy

Even though it was published a year before I was born (and that was quite a while ago) this book still holds up. In fact, I found it quite refreshing to immerse myself in a novel about a time when people spoke on telephones that had wires and rotary dials, and instead of tweeting each other or sending text messages, Highsmith's characters would write each other letters and go to cocktail parties.

It is amazing that a book like this would be published in the 1950s. In film, television and books, it was a given that the villain would always be caught and punished in the end. Even if he was an amiable anti-hero like the insurance salesman in "Double Indemnity," he could never be allowed to get away with a crime. Poor Fred McMurray had to die at the end or society would come apart at the seams.

The book is told from the point of view of Tom Ripley, a handsome young man longing for the good life, but with no means of attaining it. Then the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf bankrolls a trip to Italy, so Tom can persuade the man's son Dickie to give up his Bohemian lifestyle and come home to work in the family business. Tom jumps at the chance to go abroad with someone else footing the bill.

Tom finds the small town where Dickie, lives but instead of talking him into going home, he moves in with him. The two are inseparable, at least for a time. But Tom decides that he wants more than just to hang out with Dickie, he wants to become Dickie. Which he does, but not without a committing several serious crimes along the way.

Highsmith has created the perfect sociopathic character in Tom Ripley. She gets inside his head, expressing his inner thoughts and feelings as he spins his intricate web of lies and cover ups. He is not a likable anti-hero. But still you can't help feeling a bit of sympathy for him.

A bit, but not much.


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