Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 18, 2015

The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr RipleyI have been slacking off in my quest to read 1001 Books Before I Die, and, choosing one to read on this trip to Qld, I looked for something on the TBR that I could cheerfully leave behind for my dear old dad to read. I was pretty sure he would enjoy The Talented Mr Ripley; I’m not so sure that I did.

It is said of this novel that it’s different because it’s a crime novel written from the PoV of the perpetrator, and I can see from reviews at GoodReads that there is for some readers a kind of frisson in hoping that Tom Ripley will get away with it.  Some seem to think that he’s a sociopath and others seem to have decided that he is ‘forced into’ committing one of his murders.  *Oops* was that a spoiler? Not really, the blurb says much the same thing.

For me, this novel fits into the tired old trope of Europeans as Other.  From Shakespeare (who can be forgiven) to Enid Blyton (who cannot) far too many Anglo-centric authors have depicted Europeans in stereotypical ways and Highsmith is no different.  Tom Ripley the anti-hero goes on and on about how stupid the French and Italians are, and how he can outsmart their detectives at every turn.  The only interest in this book for me was waiting to see him get his comeuppance.

He doesn’t.   And no, that’s not a spoiler either, because everyone knows that there’s a whole series of these Ripley books.  Which I don’t intend to read.

But lots of other people love this novel, and obviously the contributors to 1001 Books think it’s beaut, so don’t take any notice of me.  Read Michelle’s review at Book to the Future for a more positive view of the book!

Author: Patricia Highsmith
Title: The Talented Mr Ripley
Publisher: Vintage (paperback, movie tie-in edition), 2000
ISBN: 9780099283782
Source: Personal copy, mooched from BookMooch when I was briefly a member.

Availability

Fishpond: The Talented Mr.Ripley.


Responses

  1. I still have not read Patricia Highsmith even though I’ve been tempted many times. I’m not so sure I should now,.

  2. Ha, I trust you, Lisa, a lot more than I trust the contributors to 1001 Books. I’ve never been particularly interesting in reading about Mr. Ripley and am even less interested now.

  3. I read Mr. Ripley – the first one anyway – it was okay. Yes, it aroused deep feelings of ambivalence – mostly I wanted him caught. But there are lots of books in which the protagonist is guilty of something – from Jack and the Beanstalk and Peter Rabbit to Crime and Punishment – lots of others. They don’t quite touch the level of ambivalence Highsmith’s book did, though.

    • Hi Becky, yes. that’s true, perhaps what makes this crime a bit different is the easy adoption of identity afterwards. I remember reading Saramago’s The Double and empathising with the character who was horror-struck that someone had his identity.

  4. Tony, Dagny. now that I’m back home and have checked 1001 Books – they say that it’s more than a cat-and-mouse tale because it has moral, psychologi8cal and philosophical complexities. They mention the class issues between Tom and the man he envies, Greenleaf, and they say that the book challenges the idea of identity because Tom so effortlessly succeeds in taking on another’s identity.
    I’ve found some terrific books from the 1001 list, but I don’t think this is one of them…

  5. Ha! I knew you’d hate this. I loved it! Yes, Ripley thinks everyone’s an idiot, especially the Europeans, but you shouldnt conflate that with Highsmith’s views. Ripley’s a complicated character and has a super-low opinion of himself, so to make himself feel better he pours scorn on others. There’s a whole homo-erotic thing going on, too (Highsmith was a lesbian), which adds to Ripley’s unhappiness with himself. I think it’s a worthy contender for 1001: it’s a superb suspense novel, plays with our sense of morality (you dont normally cheer for the criminal) and shows the divide between America’s rich and poor.

    • Oh my, you know me so well!
      Now there’s only one thing to do: you must write a review yourself to which I can link so that if people stumble on my mutterings here, they can be redirected to Mr Ripley’s champion so that he gets a proper Aussie Fair Go!

    • I agree with Kim – I think this is a classic for a good reason. The bubbling sexual tension and the unmitigated psychological shambles that is Tom Ripley drew me in completely. I’m hoping to make my way through the sequels one day soon. Thanks for linking to my review!

  6. I love it that you don’t mince words when you don’t like a book Lisa. Are you counting your progress towards 1001? I know how long these quests take… Not sure if I’ll ever get to start that one.

    • Oh well, I don’t think there’s any point in writing a review unless you’re honest about it.
      Yes, I am counting, in a desultory sort of way, I have ‘shelves’ at Goodreads, read, to read and wishlist. But I’ll never finish it. First of all I keep getting distracted – and secondly there’s hardly any Aussie books on the list so naturally I can’t devote myself to it as a true obsessive would.


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