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Talented Mr Ripley [Paperback]

Patricia Highsmith
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 27 2008
Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath. Here, in this first Ripley novel, we are introduced to suave Tom Ripley, a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante. A dark reworking of Henry James's ?The Ambassadors?, ?The Talented Mr. Ripley? serves as an unforgettable introduction to this smooth confidence man, whose talent for murder and self-invention is chronicled in four subsequent Ripley novels.

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One of the great crime novels of the 20th century, Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley is a blend of the narrative subtlety of Henry James and the self-reflexive irony of Vladimir Nabokov. Like the best modernist fiction, Ripley works on two levels. First, it is the story of a young man, Tom Ripley, whose nihilistic tendencies lead him on a deadly passage across Europe. On another level, the novel is a commentary on fictionmaking and techniques of narrative persuasion. Like Humbert Humbert, Tom Ripley seduces readers into empathizing with him even as his actions defy all moral standards.

The novel begins with a play on James's The Ambassadors. Tom Ripley is chosen by the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf to retrieve Greenleaf's son, Dickie, from his overlong sojourn in Italy. Dickie, it seems, is held captive both by the Mediterranean climate and the attractions of his female companion, but Mr. Greenleaf needs him back in New York to help with the family business. With an allowance and a new purpose, Tom leaves behind his dismal city apartment to begin his career as a return escort. But Tom, too, is captivated by Italy. He is also taken with the life and looks of Dickie Greenleaf. He insinuates himself into Dickie's world and soon finds that his passion for a lifestyle of wealth and sophistication transcends moral compunction. Tom will become Dickie Greenleaf--at all costs.

Unlike many modernist experiments, The Talented Mr. Ripley is eminently readable and is driven by a gripping chase narrative that chronicles each of Tom's calculated maneuvers of self-preservation. Highsmith was in peak form with this novel, and her ability to enter the mind of a sociopath and view the world through his disturbingly amoral eyes is a model that has spawned such latter-day serial killers as Hannibal Lecter. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Murder, in Patricia Highsmith's hands, is made to occur almost as casually as the bumping of a fender or a bout of food poisoning. This downplaying of the dramatic... has been much praised, as has the ordinariness of the details with which she depicts the daily lives and mental processes of her psychopaths. Both undoubtedly contribute to the domestication of crime in her fiction, thereby implicating the reader further in the sordid fantasy that is being worked out. --Robert Towers"

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fair warning: speaking as someone who loved the film, I found the original book quite different, but I still enjoyed it... I ate up every page!

I recommend this book, but caution fans of the film to set aside a lot of the plot points and specific characters. There is no jazz motif in the book, nor is there a Meredith Logue. The book is about what's going on in Tom Ripley's head as he negotiates his way through affluent Italy, first insinuating himself into Dickie's life, and then taking it over.

Highsmith wrote Tom's inner life so vividly, I think she truly captured the development of a psychopath in a compelling turn of circumstance. The film creates a sympathetic Tom by focusing on the persona he crafts to ply his schemes, and by illuminating the limitations of his background (contrasted by the ultra-free socialites), such that the viewer wants to rationalize Tom's actions. Quite brilliant. But the book gives a rich account of Tom's true pleasures, how he really sees things. It's cold and precise, the way Tom identifies and then insinuates himself into relationships that will serve a purpose for him. If you want an example of what "calculating" means as a personality trait, Highsmith's Tom will not disappoint.

My only criticism: The way the book dispensed with sexuality was down right disconcerting. Tom neither knows nor cares whether he is gay or straight; he simply has an a-sexual outlook? What? Add to that, this story revolves around the young and wealthy elite, lounging around post-war Europe, who all seem to possess gender in name only. I didn't expect this to read like a bodice-ripper, to be sure, but the active avoidance of the sexual dimension of their relationships was a little distracting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars James? Nabokov? Nah. April 8 2003
Are Italy's police really the world's worst? Is Dickie's dad really that stupid? Is Marge really that naive? Who hires a detective who can't speak Italian to solve a murder in Italy? It's pretty hard to swallow.
Not bad, but there's much more interesting stuff out there than this.
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By L. J. Roberts TOP 100 REVIEWER
First Sentence: Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way.

Tom Ripley has little money left and is very dissatisfied with his life. He also keeps expecting to be arrested for the various frauds he has perpetrated. An offer travel to Italy, all expenses paid, by the father of Dickie Greenleaf comes as a perfect solution. All Tom has to do is convenience Dickie to return to the US and his ailing mother. But Dickie isn't interesting in going back and the longer Tom is in Italy the more he envies Dickie's money and persona until that envy grows into violent actions.

Every now and then, you come across a book where you can see and appreciate the quality of the author's writing, but you don't particularly care for the book. This is one of those times.

The story revolves around Tom Ripley. He is described as 'innocent and clean-minded.' He is clearly a virgin and may, or may not, be gay but still has a prepubescent boy's view of sex as being 'icky'. No matter what else he may be, Tom Ripley is a textbook sociopath and Highsmith does an excellent job of portraying it. The complete disdain with which she conveys Tom's feeling toward Dickie's friend, Marge, is exceedingly well done. There is a very good conveyance of Tom's fear as well as very good suspense. As a character study, I felt the writing was excellent.

Evaluating the book as a mystery, however, is where the flaws appear. While Tom's character is as dimensional as it can be, I found the other characters very one dimensional and completely undeveloped.
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Patricia Highsmith (who died in 1995) wrote many novels of psychological suspense and high literary quality, but she is only starting to achieve the acclaim she richly deserves. The 1999 movie version of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" helped restore her most famous novel to the spotlight, despite the uneven quality of the film itself. This 1955 book remains Highsmith's most stunning work, and it ranks high among classic noir literature and psychological studies.
Like some other noir classics (such as Jim Thompson's "The Killer inside Me" and Ira Levin's "A Kiss before Dying"), "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is written from the point-of-view of an amoral character who finds that murder is merely another tool to achieve his ends. Highsmith crafts one of the most convincing and sympathetic psychotics ever written in the character of young Tom Ripley. Ripley is a low-level con-man with anti-social tendencies and a lust for living the good life that he's been denied. When the rich father of Dickie Greenleaf, an old acquaintance of Tom's, asks Tom if he'll travel to Italy to convince his wayward son to come back to the U.S., he takes the job. In the sunny romance of Italy, Tom finds himself becoming friends with Dickie. But the friendship changes to envy -- Tom Ripley will do anything if he can just HAVE Dickie Greenleaf's lifetstyle...or even better, BECOME Dickie Greenleaf. Tom gets himself enmeshed in an increasing web of murder and fear, always trying to stay one step ahead of a scheme that seems to be constantly collapsing behind him.
What is so amazing about Highsmith's achievement in this novel is that she makes the reader root for Tom Ripley, despite his superficialty and complete lack of scruples.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
What a great book! I've heard a lot about Patricia Highsmith before and I also saw the movie The Talented Mr.Ripley. Read more
Published on June 22 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Ripley's two identities
Even though not many actions happen in this story written by Patricia Highsmith, I enjoyed reading it. Read more
Published on June 17 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars The Talented Patricia Highsmith
Ever since seeing the movie version several years ago, I have always wanted to read the novel. I am someone who believes that the book is always better than the movie. Read more
Published on May 21 2004 by RCM
5.0 out of 5 stars AWARD CALIBER READING
If you were entranced by the cinema version of this fascinating study, prepare to be thrilled again with Patricia Highsmith's inimitable prose as delivered by the talented Michael... Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2004 by Gail Cooke
5.0 out of 5 stars Nail-biting entertainment
Tom Ripley is a likeable sociopath whose misfortune it is to find himself too frequently in circumstances in which murder is, if not necessary, at least desirable. Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2003 by Debra Hamel
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest of all crime novels
The superiority of Patricia Highsmith's novel to the recent Anthony Minghella film adaptation of it almost goes without saying: the homoerotic subtext of the film is here... Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2003 by Jay Dickson
5.0 out of 5 stars What a guy!
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY by Patricia Highsmith
This is the novel in which Patricia Highsmith introduces to the world her most famous character: one of the craftiest creepiest... Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2003 by Ratmammy
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery noir
Patricia Highsmith's noir novel from the 1950s, The Talented Mr. Ripley, first of several Ripley-related novels, had new life breathed into it by the release this past year of the... Read more
Published on July 20 2003 by FrKurt Messick
4.0 out of 5 stars A new twist at every turn
This is the first book of its kind that I have read. I was never really into crime novels, but when a woman gave me a box of books and I found this in the box, It looked good... Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2003 by Photopro
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