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review 2017-08-22 18:40
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

 

**Please note that this review is LOADED with spoilers! If you plan to read this book in the future, you should! But you should NOT continue to read this review.**

 

To Tom Ripley, being bored, being around dull people and having nothing to do are among the WORST things in existence. Of course, he never has to be bored again after brutally murdering his friend and assuming his identity.

 

Tom is recruited by Mr. Greenleaf, (the father of Tom's acquaintance, Dickie), to bring his son home from Italy. Tom is even given a hefty sum with which to support himself in Italy while working his come-home-magic on his friend. Unfortunately, Ripley has no luck persuading Dickie to do anything, other than to get stumbling drunk nearly every minute of the day. Then, shortly after an awkward scene where Tom is caught trying on Dickie's clothes, Tom decides to whack Dickie and that's where this story really begins.

 

I'd seen the movie with Matt Damon a long time ago, but I've always been fascinated with the character of Tom Ripley and wanted to read the book for myself. In the 50's, stories from the viewpoint of the murderer were rare, not like today. I think it was also rare, (feel free to correct me), to have the antagonist be likable at times. I mean, there you are, in Ripley's mind- rolling along thinking about your afternoon cocktails and that evening's parties and then BAM! He's whacking someone across the head with an oar. And then whacking them again. And then across their neck. And then stabbing them with it as if it were a sharp instrument. He's wheezing and out of breath and he's still going. And there's the reader, a bit stunned, wondering how we got to this point and where did everything go wrong? This right here is what I liked best about the story.

 

Now we have Criminal Minds and FBI profilers that write books about serial killers, sociopaths and the like. In the 50's when this book was written, that was not the case. I think Patricia Highsmith had the thought processes of Ripley down pat. Nothing is ever his fault. He is just so clever and everyone else so dull and stupid. The depravity of his thoughts are presented so matter-of-fact-ly that they could almost pass for normal. His ability to read the emotions and thoughts of others and anticipate what they'll do and how they'll react in certain situations is astonishing. It's almost like Ripley was not a person at all, but instead just a collection of facial expressions and witty banter wrapped around an all encompassing greed. He was a mimic of a person. He had nothing within himself-all that he was came from outside.

 

"He loved possessions, not masses of them, but a select few that he did not part with. They gave a man self-respect. Not ostentation but quality, and the love that cherished the quality. Possessions reminded him that he existed, and made him enjoy his existence. It was as simple as that. And wasn't that worth something? He existed."

 

He was so good at his machinations that he, himself believed them. He would imagine scenes in his head over and over again-so they would become real. To him, real in his head equated to real in reality. He believed so totally and utterly that it was easy for him to make others believe too. To me, this is where the strength of this book lies-the creation of Tom Ripley. He is such a fascinating character that I can see myself reading this again in the future.

 

This story really wouldn't work in today's world, with all of our phones and cameras and facial recognition software: in that regard The Talented Mr. Ripley is dated. However, as far as the creation of a believable sociopath, Tom Ripley would be right at home in an episode of Criminal Minds-and he would give the investigators a good run for their money.

 

Highly recommended!

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review 2017-08-22 02:11
Mr Ripley!
The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

 I need a massage from all that tension Mr. Ripley caused in my neck!

 

More tomorrow because it's Preacher time. 

 

 

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review 2017-08-20 20:14
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

Rereading The Talented Mr. Ripley has been so much fun and it´s a book that actually improves during the second read. Knowing the basic outline of the story makes this a more satisfying read, because you can focus on all the fine nuances the story has to offer.

 

Tom Ripley is a delightfully creepy and amoral character (he himself not being aware of it) and following his sociopathic behaviour is a blast. From his point of view there is a kind of logic to his behaviour, everything he does makes sense to him and I couldn´t help but to be appalled and fascinated at the same time by his character. Since Highsmith tells the story from Tom´s perspective, I began simultaeously to root for him as soon as his lifestyle was threatened by outside forces and to keep my fingers crossed that he may get caught.  

 

There is nothing more I could add to my initial review, which I wrote two years ago when I first read the book. One thing has changed, though. I still have a strong sense of justice, but now I think the ending of the novel is perfect.

 

I felt a wicked delight everytime Tom experienced a bout of paranoia, that nagging feeling that he may get caught at all times. I hope he may live for all eternity in this state of unrest.

(spoiler show)
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review 2017-08-20 12:44
The Talented Mr Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

He loved possessions, not masses of them, but a select few that he did not part with. They gave a man self-respect. Not ostentation but quality, and the love that cherished the quality. Possessions reminded him that he existed, and made him enjoy his existence. It was as simple as that. And wasn't that worth something? He existed. Not many people in the world knew how to, even if they had the money. It really didn't take money, masses of money, it took a certain security.

The Talented Mr Ripley was my first introduction to the talents of Patricia Highsmith. That was way back in the 1990s, probably around the time that the Damon/Paltrow/Law film version of the book was released. Since then, I have read a few other books by Highsmith and about her, too. I am still in awe of her writing with every new book I pick up, but The Talented Mr Ripley remains special to me. 

 

Tom Ripley is a deeply disturbed character, who is described first in the book as a sort of failure at life. He's barely able to support himself, he's sponging off friends, he has no motivation to anything, and yet he sees himself as superior to his fellow man and enjoys manipulating people. Yet, he is also very afraid of being found out.

 

Not just being found out of various crimes and misdemeanors, but also of being found out to be a failure, a nothing, nobody. Because Tom's greatest issue is that he has no personality whatsoever. That makes him as forgettable as it makes him desperate to be recognised.

He was thinking that he had to identify himself, immediately. It would look worse for him, whatever happened, the longer he put it off. When he left the cathedral he inquired of a policeman where the nearest police station was. He asked it sadly. He felt sad. He was not afraid, but he felt that identifying himself as Thomas Phelps Ripley was going to be one of the saddest things he had ever done in his life.

Now I am not going to try and analyse Tom. I couldn't. It is just that Tom's self-hatred and feelings of unacknowledged superiority set him up to take on any means of escape from his own life that present themselves, and this is where the gripping plot to this book starts off. 

 

We get to follow Tom on a mission, which he is bound to fail because the whole idea is ludicrous from the start. It does give Tom a new scene, tho, in which he can try and become something, become someone.

 

I will not give much of the plot away but suffice it to say, there is murder involved, there is a police hunt across Italy, and there are various close encounters between Tom and other characters where I was just on the edge of my seat to find out how it would resolve. Would he get away? I must have spent half my time reading about Tom hoping he would be found out, and the other half hoping that he wouldn't - simply because it was such a thrill to read about this despicable, delusional, pathetic character that is Tom Ripley. 

 

Re-reading the book after so many years, I knew where the story was going, but was still thrilled by the details that I had forgotten since reading this in the 1990s - details which the film got wrong, by the way. 

 

Re-reading this also brought out many details about Highsmith's writing that I am not sure I appreciated on the first read: Highsmith toyed with Tom. She absolutely works him like a puppet in this story, and you can see that she derives a twisted kind of fun from doing this.

 

 

At times when Tom wallows in self-pity, Highsmith makes us laugh at him.

"His parents had drowned in Boston Harbour, and Tom had always thought that probably had something to do with it, because as long as  he could remember he had been afraid of water, and he had never learned how to swim. It gave Tom a sick, empty feeling at the pit of his stomach to think that in less than a week he would have water below him, miles deep, and that undoubtedly he would have to look at it most of the time, because people on ocean liners spent most of their time on deck. And it was particularly un-chic to be seasick, he felt. He had never been seasick, but he came very near it several times in those last days, simply thinking about the voyage to Cherbourg."

At times when Tom's monstrosity seems to take over, Highsmith shows us his ineptitude.

"Marge had turned her Martini over. She daubed at the crocheted tablecloth awkwardly with her napkin.

Tom came running back from the kitchen with a wet cloth. "Perfectly alright," he said, watching the wood of the table turn white in spite of his wiping. It wasn't the tablecloth he cared about, it was the beautiful table.

"I'm so sorry," Marge went on protesting.

Tom hated her. He suddenly remembered her bra hanging over the windowsill in Mongibello. Her underwear would be draped over his chairs tonight, if he invited her to stay here. The idea repelled him. He deliberately hurled a smile across the table at her.

"I hope you'll honour me by accepting a bed for tonight. Not mine," he added, laughing, "but I've got two rooms upstairs and you're welcome to one of them."

"Thanks a lot. All right, I will." She beamed at him."

 

So, what we get in The Talented Mr Ripley is the story told from two points of view - the delusions of Tom Ripley, and the observations of Highsmith who is orchestrating Tom's story. 

Highsmith had a wicked sense humor, and I do mean "wicked" in the sense of dry, dark and very twisted. This comes to full show in Ripley and, on this second read, I could not help but wonder what other nuances of Highsmith's personality may have made their way into the book, too. 

 

I am assuming that Tom's closetedness may also have been drawn from the author's own experiences, and that the overwhelming amount of alcohol that is described in the book may, sadly, have been another.

 

As Andrew Wilson quotes from Highsmith's diaries in 1944 (11 years before Ripley), in Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith

Alcohol, for Highsmith, was another way of accessing her subconscious mind and throughout her notebooks and diaries she repeatedly refers to drink as essential for the true artist, as it ‘lets him see the truth, the simplicity, and the primitive emotions once more’.

 

I have no doubt that I will refer back to Ripley - whether as a result of reading more of Highsmith's work or whether as a comparison to other thrillers I may come across. In the weirdest of ways, The Talented Mr Ripley has been such a fun book.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

P.S.:

 

Reading update posts for this are:

 

Update 1 - Page 1.

Update 2 - Page 47.

Update 3 - Page 133.

Update 4 - Page 184.

Update 5 - Page 202.

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text 2017-08-20 11:07
Reading progress update: I've read 202 out of 258 pages.
The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

I have to admit, I´m having such a blast rereading The Talented Mr. Ripley. As I have said to BrokenTune, it is even more fun the second time around.

 

And at times I do feel a slight admiration for his way of thinking:

 

As long as the innocence of Dickie Greenleaf was debatable in the opinion of the police, it was suicidal to think of leaving the country as Dickie, because if he had to switch suddenly to Tom Ripley, Ripley´s passport would not show that he had left Italy. If he wanted to leave Italy - to take Dickie Greenleaf entirely away from the police - he would have to leave as Tom Ripley, an re-enter later as Tom Ripley and become Dickie again once the police investigation were over. That was a possibility.

 

I´m confused, but still, this has a weird kind of logic to it. 

(spoiler show)

And then you realize just how pathetic and delusional he really is:

 

 

He definitely wanted to see Greece. He wanted to see Greece as Dickie Greenleaf with Dickie´s money, Dickie´s clothes, Dickie´s way of behaving with strangers. But would it happen that he couldn´t see Greece as Dickie Greenleaf? Would one thing after another come up to thwart him - murder, suspicion, people? He hadn´t wanted to murder, it had been a necessity. The idea of going to Greece, trudging over the Acropolis as Tom Ripley, American tourist, held no charm for him at all. He would as soon not go

 

Ripley constantly makes up his own reality, telling himself that Dickie´s murder hasn´t been premeditated. 

(spoiler show)

.

I have completely blanked out on the ending, but I expect Tom will get into some more trouble on the last 60 pages:

 

"Where were you this Winter?"

"Well, not with Tom, I mean, not with Dickie," he said laughing, flustered at the slip of the tongue.

 

Just a courtesy note to let you know that shit is about to hit the fan.

(spoiler show)
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