on October 6, 2003
Coming to Ms Highsmith via Mr Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train, The American Friend) I was struck by the way in which the writer had me liking Mr Ripley and disliking most of the other characters in these stories, even though Mr Ripley is a liar, a murderer, a thief, a cold calculating fish who delights in deceit and undermining others, manipulating the world around him to suit his selfish ends - maybe he represents the child in us, a character who gives expression to the dark side of our nature by allowing us to live through his adventures. He is superior, snobbish and incredibly attentive to detail. His knowledge of the art world, of Europe as the civilised centre of the universe, and many other matters make him something of a gourmet, bon vivant, idler. The world is just a large play pen for him to indulge his urges, but at some considerable risk. Tremendously entertaining stories composed over a period of 20 years by Ms Highsmith in clear stylish English make them a pleasure to read. This excellent Everyman Edition provide these stories with a worthy home. A bargain.
on January 1, 2002
The Tom Ripley originally written by Highsmith (i.e., the character in this trilogy as opposed to the character in the film version) seemed to me to lack the ambiguity and moral uncertainty of the character portrayed by Matt Damon in the film. Highsmith's Ripley (at least as he appears in this trilogy -- I understand there are two other Ripley books not included here) is somewhat flat and one-dimensional, and it is hard to really understand what motivates him to commit the string of crimes (both petty and serious) that provide something of a plot structure for the novel. The only exception to this general observation is on the matter of Ripley's sexuality: in the book, it is much more ambiguous -- while he cetainly is not the straightest character in print, he is not the (more) obviously gay character played by Damon. (Part of the overtness of the film is likely due to the fact that the first book was written in the 1950s, while the film premiered about 50 years later.)Unlike the recently-released (and very good) Highsmith short story collection, this trilogy is very plot driven, with character development somewhat neglected. Nonetheless, it is an interesting read, especially if you enjoyed the movie.
on April 24, 2001
Tom Ripley is probably the most unique...and compelling...murderer in literature today. This is no serial killer like Hannibal Lecter; this is a man who defies description. The most relevant fact about Ripley is he's NOT an evil man. He just has some strange views on the importance of human life. When you read the Ripley novels as a body of work, you realize that he doesn't kill anybody that the reader has much sympathy for. His victims tend to be more self-centered and insensitive than Ripley himself. Ripley also never kills for pleasure; he kills when someone backs him into a corner. In "The Talented Mr. Ripley", Tom is a confused young man trying to find an identity, no matter whose he has to steal. By the second book, "Ripley Under Ground", he has his own life, a home, an income, and a beautiful wife. And he is more than willing to kill to keep all this safe. "Ripley's Game" shows what Tom can do when angered, and what he does when he feels he's gone too far. "The Boy Who Followed Ripley" has him taking a protege, and the final novel, "Ripley Under Water", pits Tom against someone even stranger than he is. In all of this, we find ourselves, against our better judgment, actually pulling for Tom. These novels are must-reads for any devotee of suspense, but fair warning: they are not for the weak of heart or the impressionable of mind.
on January 1, 2000
Highsmith's books--all of which feature murders--are not typical murder mysteries because Highsmith never leaves the reader in the dark as to the identity of the murderer. (The sole exception runs for only three pages in the third novel, in which Highsmith playfully leaves the reader wondering, with other characters, whether Ripley was responsible for the unnecessary demise of third-tier character.)
A mystery novel that discloses the identity of the murderer may create tension by dealing with the question whether other characters, such as a law enforcement officer or a spouse, will learn the identity of the murderer. The first book contains considerable dramatic tension of this type, but the second two contain considerably less (especially for the reader familiar with the Ripley series).
The strange appeal of these novels--especially the latter two--lies more in their overall lack of dramatic tension. In the second and third books, Ripley's easy, cultured life invites the reader to relax, perhaps brew himself or herself a cup of tea, and, above all, let his or her guard down. Never mind that the purpose of a quick trip is murder most foul; Ripley never lacks the time to pick up a tasteful gift for Heloise, his wife. Never mind that Ripley and a friend must dispose quickly of bodies; Ripley never lacks the time to prepare (true, in this instance, hastily) a sumptuous meal after the murders.
As unusual as these books are in their lack of dramatic tension, they are even more unusual in their presentation of Ripley. Many reviews describe him as amoral. He is amoral, but only if that word permits one to display some morals. In the second and third books, Ripley emerges as a person who is deeply in love with, and committed to, his wife. He is nearly as loyal to his housekeeper, Madame Annette. He is capable of surprising loyalty to others. By the third novel, he has even displayed some growth in his ability to show concern for others (ok, maybe only two other persons).
Undoubtedly, though, the distinction of these three works is the ease with which Ripley murders. He murders as he lives--efficiently and effortlessly. Each murder seems the product of impulse, although Ripley commits each with as much composure as circumstances permit and the murders themselves are never devoid of purpose.
The achievement of the second and third novels, which in many respects are superior to the first, is that the murders blend into Ripley's life in such a way that the reader may not find it jarring that other characters, who discover that Ripley has committed these murders, do not themselves find the acts more repulsive than they do.
Highsmith accomplishes this unusual effect in part by her characterization of Ripley. Most readers will find appealing Ripley's taste and composure. Even more readers will find appealing his loyal devotion to his wife. In the third novel, Ripley's murder victims were dangerous, hardened criminals.
But, most of all, Highsmith eases the murders into her narratives through skillful prose. She writes in a spare, easy style, just as Ripley lives. In short, clear sentences, Highsmith captures the few details that quickly render a scene or a minor character. Her word choice is simple, but apt. Despite her efficiency, Highsmith is patient in dialogue. Heloise asks Ripley if he and another character had a <nice talk.> Never mind that they were discussing murder, Ripley invariably answers that they did.
Above all, read these novels for the rare pleasure that good writing provides.
I must also commend the publisher. Although nearly 900 pages, the book is the perfect size and handles well in a variety of reading position (although I found myself responding to the cultured world of Ripley by abandoning my favored reading position--prone--for the more formal one of sitting upright). The slightly rough texture of the red book (dustjacket removed) also facilitates easy handling. The print is pleasing to the eye. Suggestive of more devotional literature, my book came with a handsome gold ribbon to mark the page on the few occasions that I was able to put the book down.
on December 21, 1999
If you like characters in fiction that get under your skin, then this anthology is for you. Under the darkened pen of Patricia Highsmith, Tom Ripley, her most memorable character of fiction, brilliantly comes to life. Growing from a poor, insecure boy, to a suave, albeit dangerous man of the world, Tom Ripley takes you along through the passages of his life, holding you as a willing hostage to the dark secrets he keeps. From the Sunny shores of Italy to the elegant French countryside, we are allowed to eavesdrop into the inner workings of a master deceiver. Rarely do we get the chance to watch a character mature as the author matures, but over the course of several decades, Ms. Highsmith, accomplished the task by writing 5 books dealing with Tom Ripley. Her three best novels of the series are presented here.
For a good old fashioned, up all night, reading marathon, you can't go far wrong with this anthology. If you enjoy the feelings of hope, excitement, dispair, fear and loss then you'll love this compilation. Having read all the Tom Ripley novels, the only dissapointment I have is that there are no more.
on June 15, 2004
The novel is well written and I enjoyed reading it. I think the story has something very extravagant and is, psychologically seen, such a great work of art. The story is interesting because of the variability of the different people. The different characters are well constructed but in a way not as realistic as in the book.
Tom Ripley is a man with too high ambitions but he can't realise his dreams so easily in this world.
I think the aspect of seeing through the eyes of the protagonist is nothing special but through the eyes of a criminal. It's very interesting and a great challenge not to lose sight of the right side of life and the importance of the relations between important and true friends. In a way the story aims at the global world constellation because of the relations among the various points of power in the world, like the "good" and the "bad" people or the way how you succeed in your life.
But altogether it's a thrilling story which I can recommend to read.
on November 29, 2000
I am having a ball - I'm in love with Patricia Highsmith and her stories. I can't get enough of the corrupt, sociopathic, amoral, sleazy, viscious, mean, devilish, vile, brilliantly believable world she has created. Has anyone read "The Tremor of Forgery", set in Algiers? Wow! All the Ripleys are ripping, in the true sense of the word. Tom is a horror. I saw the movie first, but I do think Matt Damon did him justice, as did the other actors with their parts. But I liked "Purple Noon" better as a movie, especially the ending, which was not like the book but excellent nevertheless.\
I envy those who haven't begun reading PH yet. They are in for a fab adventure. Oh, by the way - "Strangers On A Train" is amazing - incredble - creepy as all get-out. Very different from the excellent Hitchcock.
You'll want to "go all the way" with Highsmith - that is, read it all. I'm thrilled that I have more to go.
on March 10, 2003
I was a bit disappointed that everybody obviously watched the new remake of "The talented Mr.Ripley" with Matt Damon(which I didn`t find that good), but nobody mentioned the original movie from the early sixties with Alain Delon called "Plein soleil" which is available on amazon.com.
I read the first 4 Ripley sequels in the early eighties and liked "Ripley`s Game", "Ripley under Ground" and "The Boy who followed Ripley" the most of all 5 sequels. But the first one is necessary to read to understand the other volumes. But I never liked the first book as much as the others. Her style of writing matured in the seventies a lot and her books gave me lots of inspirations and tips where to go on vacation and what kind of classical music I could hear etcetera.
If you enjoyed the Matt Damon version with Tom Ripley, try "Plein soleil", you`ll like it even better! The actors, location and score/soundtrack are just divine!
on October 2, 2000
What a way to get to know Tom Ripley. Read this one first and you'll be sure to look for the other Tom Ripley books. The 1st novel (THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY) is quite exciting while forming a question within you, "Can you really trust anyone?". The 2nd novel (RIPLEY UNDERGROUND) keeps the crime-mystery going even further. It will bring you into the misgivings of the 'art gallery' world. The 3rd novel (RIPLEY'S GAME) merged a bit of Italian Mafia and even more Hitchcock suspense together. The author had a great talent for writing crime and mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat. A few favorite lines from the books: 'There was a faint air of sadness about him now.' 'This evening--today--can we just do nothing?' 'There's no such thing as a perfect murder,' Tom said to Reeves. 'That's just a parlor game, trying to dream one up...'
on January 5, 2000
Being a mysterious person herself, it is no wonder that she was able to create the character Tom Ripley. I found the book absolutely irresistable. The main character Tom is introduced to us in the first novel, "The Talented Mr. Ripley". Homoeroticism is clearly evident, yet Highsmith decides to mask this by marrying Tom off to a lovely French woman in the second novel, "Ripley Under Ground". I loved the development of the characters, and Highsmiths brilliant ability to create a claustrophobic environment from which Tom can not escape. His only chances to breathe stem from his murderous escapades with in each novel.
As an avid Christie reader, I found these novels not only to be a nice change of pace, but also intelligent, and geared towards the literary mystery reader.