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Talented Mr Ripley Paperback – May 27 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton; Reprint edition (May 27 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780393332148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393332148
  • ASIN: 0393332144
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #15,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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 alternate Paperback edition.


"The brilliance of Highsmith's conception of Tom Ripley was her ability to keep the heroic and demonic American dreamer in balance in the same protagonist-thus keeping us on his side well after his behavior becomes far more sociopathic than that of a con man like Gatsby." -- Frank Rich "[Highsmith] has created a world of her own-a world claustrophobic and irrational which we enter each time with a sense of personal danger." -- Graham Greene "Mesmerizing... a Ripley novel is not to be safely recommended to the weak-minded or impressionable." "The most sinister and strangely alluring quintet the crime-fiction genre has ever produced." -- Mark Harris "Highsmith's subversive touch is in making the reader complicit with Ripley's cold logic." "[Highsmith] forces us to re-evaluate the lines between reason and madness, normal and abnormal, while goading us into sharing her treacherous hero's point of view." -- Michiko Kakutani "[Tom Ripley] is as appalling a protagonist as any mystery writer has ever created." "Savage in the way of Rabelais or Swift." -- Joyce Carol Oates "For eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there's no one like Patricia Highsmith." "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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miss Multiplicity on June 11 2011
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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Format: Paperback
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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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. And the same is true with "The Talented Mr. Ripley." I truly think that Anthony Mingella's film was well-made, but there are so many nuances to Tom Ripley's character that could never receive justice on film.
Highsmith tells the story of the utterly forgettable Thomas Ripley, a young man who yearns for wealth and prestige to the extent that he schemes his way through life. A golden opportunity comes along when he is tracked down by the father of Richard "Dickie" Greenleaf. Dickie's father pays Tom to travel to Italy to force his wayward son to come home. Tom sets out to fulfill this plan, but on meeting Dickie, he becomes too enthralled with his lifestyle, that he helps Dickie elude his father even more. Tom is happy in paradise, or so it would see. He loves Dickie's life so much (and perhaps Dickie himself) that he would do anything to have his lifestyle - including murder.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a detailed character study of an unlikeable character. Readers are meant to dislike Tom for all the reasons that other characters do, as does Tom himself. Yet at the same time, Tom grows on the reader because we want to know what happens to him. Even as he winds himself further and further into trouble, we want to know how he'll be able to get out of it. Tom himself finds his situation unbelievable; rarely admitting to himself that the bad deeds he has done are real. He keeps waiting for his luck to run out. So do we.
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