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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.

Review

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

Most helpful customer reviews
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The Talented Patricia Highsmith May 21 2004
By RCM
Format:Paperback
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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5.0 out of 5 stars What a guy! Sept. 20 2003
Format:Paperback
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 sociopaths to grace the book world and the silver screen, The Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley is asked by business tycoon Herbert Greenleaf to track down his son Richard, who is living the high life in Italy and refuses to come home. Herbert takes to the unassuming Ripley, entrusting him with some money and some information on Dickie, and asks to be kept informed on his progress of his mission.
Ripley, who is feeling bored out of his skull at the moment, sees this as an opportunity he cannot ignore. Off to Italy he goes in search of the missing son. Once he finds Dickie, Ripley finds that he is attracted to Dickie and soon is obsessed in his need to be with Dickie, to be just like Dickie, at whatever cost. He also feels revulsion towards the female friend that is Dickie's companion in Italy, Marge. Marge is obviously attracted to Dickie, but Ripley does not see this being reciprocated and does his best to get Marge out of the way so he can have Dickie all to himself.
Ripley and Dickie seem to have a budding friendship developing but it doesn't end quite the way Ripley would have liked it. He soon finds the need to get rid of Dickie, and during a boating expedition, Ripley murders Dickie, hiding the body along a deserted rocky beach and sinking the boat into the waters.
From then on, Ripley masterminds a cover up, which involves him assuming Dickie Greenleaf's identity. He's able to hide the death from Marge, who is constantly trying to find a way to reach Dickie. Dickie's father also comes to Italy to look for Dickie, but Ripley is always able to find ways to cover up the disappearance.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Differs from the film, so start "fresh" for this excellent read
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! Read more
Published on June 11 2011 by Miss Multiplicity
3.0 out of 5 stars The quality of the writing doesn't quite cover the flaws
First Sentence: Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way. Read more
Published on April 5 2011 by L. J. Roberts
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 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 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
2.0 out of 5 stars James? Nabokov? Nah.
Are Italy's police really the world's worst? Is Dickie's dad really that stupid? Is Marge really that naive? Read more
Published on April 8 2003 by dudesimon
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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