Talented Mr Ripley Paperback – May 27 2008
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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 (New York Times Magazine)
[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. — Washington Post Book World
The most sinister and strangely alluring quintet the crime-fiction genre has ever produced. — Mark Harris (Entertainment Weekly)
Highsmith's subversive touch is in making the reader complicit with Ripley's cold logic. — Daily Telegraph (UK)
[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 (New York Times)
[Tom Ripley] is as appalling a protagonist as any mystery writer has ever created. — Newsday
Savage in the way of Rabelais or Swift. — Joyce Carol Oates (New York Review of Books)
For eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there's no one like Patricia Highsmith. — Time
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 (New York Review of Books)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Other subtle differences make the movie better as well. I don't think I'm giving too much away if I say that Dickie's murder is slightly different. In the movie, Dickie's murder is a heat of the moment kind of thing-they're arguing and it suddenly turns violent. Then Tom gets trapped in his evil act and keeps having to tell lie after lie to cover his tracks. In the book, the murder is cold bloodedly plotted beforehand. I think it makes Tom's character much more interesting, dramatically and thematically, in the movie's setup.
Still, Mr. Ripley is an enjoyable read, and well worth picking up. The writing is subtle, you have to pay attention. (I can't believe how much gay content Highsmith got away with, considering this came out in the 50s). I would recommend both the book and movie to anyone.
As rarely happens, the movie is better than the book!
This is due to:
• multiple twists and details present in the movie but not in the novel;
• a superlative acting cast which is well directed, Matt Damon for instance never overdoing his various character impersonations;
• the varied and well-chosen musical score that truly supports the storyline;
• the wonderful settings in New York and Italy which successfully render the genus loci despite not being particularly original (5th Avenue overlooking Central Park, Piazza Navona in Rome, the Grand Canal in Venice, the Galleria Umberto 1 in Naples, etc.);
• the pertinent references to Italian culture which some may feel border on stereotypes but do manage to avoid major pitfalls;
• yes, even the costumes which are elegant and well adapted to the characters and their evolutions.
This entertaining, well-crafted movie is highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
Looking forward to the others in the series. Maybe something to read on the road through Europe. Duded rushed dish.Published 5 months ago by James Welsh
First Sentence: Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way. Read morePublished on April 5 2011 by L. J. Roberts
What a great book! I've heard a lot about Patricia Highsmith before and I also saw the movie The Talented Mr.Ripley. Read morePublished on June 22 2004
Even though not many actions happen in this story written by Patricia Highsmith, I enjoyed reading it. Read morePublished on June 17 2004
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 morePublished on May 21 2004 by RCM
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 morePublished on Feb. 21 2004 by Gail Cooke
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 morePublished on Nov. 5 2003 by Debra Hamel
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 morePublished on Oct. 11 2003 by Jay Dickson