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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Thrilling!
The story begins very simple. Two people meet each other in a train and talk. But the end is not as simple as the beginning at all. Charles Bruno has killed Guy Haines' wife and Guy has killed Bruno's father. The basis for these two murders is established still on the train, but at that time no one imagines that it would go so far. Both have killed somebody at the end,...
Published on June 15 2004

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3.0 out of 5 stars Strangers on a Train
I went into this already familiar with Hitchcock's film version of the same story. The opening premise of the film and HighSmith's novel are the same. Two strangers meet on the train and discuss among other things, people in their lives: a Wife, a Father, who they would be better off without. One of these strangers, Charles Bruno, is an extremely well imagined...
Published on Jan. 10 2012 by Arah-Lynda Hay


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3.0 out of 5 stars Strangers on a Train, Jan. 10 2012
By 
Arah-Lynda Hay (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
I went into this already familiar with Hitchcock's film version of the same story. The opening premise of the film and HighSmith's novel are the same. Two strangers meet on the train and discuss among other things, people in their lives: a Wife, a Father, who they would be better off without. One of these strangers, Charles Bruno, is an extremely well imagined sociopath, while the other, Guy, is a mild mannered architect whose role in this story I never entirely accept. Bruno murders Guy's wife, even though Guy never agreed to this plan. Now he is pressuring Guy to do his part and eliminate Bruno's Father.

After this setup the film and the book are very different. The book delves into the conscience of Bruno and Guy and takes you into their heads. While at first interesting this became quite tedious.

Then again it could be that I simply preferred Hitchcock's adaptation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars That boy Bruno is something else, Nov. 28 2010
By 
Sears Braithwaite (of Bullard) "SB" (Ontario) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
Highsmith was a very talented writer. This was her first novel but does not much feel like a beginner's effort.

The best thing about the novel is Bruno. He is a brilliant invention. Guy, OTOH, becomes irritating. The middle of the novel becomes a little tedious, with his constant flip-flopping, over, well, everything. He is an emotional basket case, which of course is the key to the plot. It would not work otherwise. The ends of both men are rather a disappointment. Particularly Bruno. He deserved better.

Hitchcock and Chandler took the more conventional line in the movie. I haven't seen that in years, but I think it worked better. I remember Robert Walker was brilliant as Bruno.

Strange how movies have been so kind to Highsmith, in an awkward way: I love Minghella's Talented Mr. Ripley. It moved me to read the book, and I was quite disappointed there: again, her writing is flawless, but the story disappoints--all she seems to care about is the mechanics of someone getting away with murder and living happily ever after. The movie added many more layers of complexity to the main characters, and even some of the minor ones.

Oddly, compared to her Talented Ripley, Highsmith is actually more ambitious with Strangers on a Train. The novel is, psychologically, very deep. But perhaps experience taught her to give the audience more of what they wanted, and less of her own vision.
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4.0 out of 5 stars These people truly were strangers to me., July 9 2004
By 
I. Sondel "I. Sondel - lover of the arts" (Tallahassee, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
I don't know why it surprises me to discover that Hollywood has tampered with a novel. Having only seen the Hitchcock film scripted by Raymond Chandler, I was blown away by this early classic from Highsmith. Pretty much the first third of the novel has ended up on screen, but it would seem that Hitch and his associates simply didn't read the rest. Almost everything about this story has been changed. I like the story as Highsmith wrote it. She is a master of suspence. The characters are well drawn and full of ambiguity. Like most everything else I've read by Highsmith, this is both gripping and unnerving. I loved it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Thrilling!, June 15 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
The story begins very simple. Two people meet each other in a train and talk. But the end is not as simple as the beginning at all. Charles Bruno has killed Guy Haines' wife and Guy has killed Bruno's father. The basis for these two murders is established still on the train, but at that time no one imagines that it would go so far. Both have killed somebody at the end, but there is a difference between them: Bruno is an insane, and Guy is a victim.
Through the whole story a very complex relationship between these two men evolves just because of this accidental meeting on the train. Patricia Highsmith shows her ability to describe such relationships in a wonderful way. She tells a whole story with a relationship and has no need of any kind of big surprise effects to turn around the whole story. The reader is always up-to-date concerning the main action. Although it's not boring at all, because the real tension of the story is not created by the progression of the actions but by the progression of the relationship.
"Straingers on a Train" is not a typical detective story. Highsmith's protagonist is not a private detective who solves the case gloriously. The two murderers are protagonists, the reader even shares the suffering of the two men running away from the "bad" police. This complete role reversal - together with many other unusual initial positions - makes the book to a unique reading enjoyment. Absolutely recommendable!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An American Dostoyevsky, Dec 26 2003
By 
William Hare (Seattle, Washington) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
Patricia Highsmith's "Strangers on a Train" came out in 1950, attaining prompt bestseller status and intriguing filmdom's master of intrigue, Alfred Hitchcock, enough to fashion a film around it which was released one year later. Highsmith jolted readers with her gripping realism, taking a basically simple but clever plot and carving out something much more.
Highsmith's book focuses on two men in their twenties, Charlie Bruno and Guy Haines. The former is of great New York wealth, but is troubled and is headed for cataclysmic disaster, which he appears eager to reach fast through his alcoholic dissipation and all-purpose troublemaking. The latter has worked his way upward from a modest, middle class background in his native Texas to become one of America's premier architects before reaching his thirtieth birthday.
Under normal circumstances these individuals would probably never cross paths, but fate intervenes when they travel on the same train and meet as a result of the extroverted Bruno forcing himself on the more introspective Haines, who does not want to appear rude. When Bruno learns that Haines is faced with an unpleasant divorce situation in dealing with a promiscuous wife, the inebriated Bruno jolts his more stable traveling companion by suggesting that they swap murders. Someone who avidly reads mystery books, Bruno states that they would each perform a perfect crime since they would each be killing total strangers and there is nothing to link them to their victims. Bruno wants Haines to kill his father, who is standing in the way of his getting access to the family wealth. The reason for his hatred of his father is also linked to his slavish devotion to his mother, who is seen as a quasi-deity to the troubled young man.
Haines leaves the compartment when Bruno is sleeping off his drinking, convinced he will never hear from him again. He does, and under the most frightening circumstances. Highsmith has such a brilliant penchant for plotting mystery that no more will be given away, except to say that the psychological currents and cross-currents put readers squarely into the picture. The author forces the reader to make judgments of their own about life and death, and how we deal with each, and how authority is correlated with society. Are the two in opposition to each other? This is one of the probing questions she asks mainly through the interactions of the characters.
Highsmith could be referred to as an American Dostoyevsky. Just as the great nineteenth century Russian author probed the inner mind and the dimensions of guilt within the framework of someone who has taken a human life, the American touches those same roots in an atmosphere of chilling suspense. Bruno and Haines are characters fastened indelibly into the mind after reading Highsmith's explosive novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Psychological Study!, Dec 12 2003
This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
Highly entertaining and original, even though so many rip-offs have been produced since its debut. Highsmith does a titanic job of studying the cat-and-mouse psychology of Guy and Bruno. While I found the ending to be less than satisfying, it is a taut thrill read from the first chapter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Far more disturbing..., Oct. 30 2003
By 
P. Micocci "embevecido" (Houston, TX USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
...than the movie! As I recall it, the character of Bruno never develops in the movie beyond that of a randomly-met psychopath; the portrayal of Guy, for that matter, is rather limited as well. I suppose that the nature of cinema is responsible rather than any failing on the part of Hitchcock; in fact, I've always loved the movie, but the novel has a real gut-wrenching impact, particularly for any reader who has ever suffered from panic attacks. One gets much more of a sense why both major characters feel and act the way they do, and how anyone can find themselves closer to doing the unthinkable than they would ever have believed possible. An altogether harrowing vision of guilt and isolation!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Are they, or aren't they ?, July 13 2003
By 
Jean-Marc M Salama (Melbourne, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
I found the dialog between the two potential accomplices in the train was the best part of the book. The descriptions of the murders were OK, but we've read plenty of those in other books. The thing I found frustrating was the exploration of the characters. I'm still not sure whether Patricia Highsmith was trying to tell us there was homosexuality to explain the attraction between the two main characters. Did I miss something ? Personally, I don't care, but I wish she'd get on with it and let us know one way or the other. Perhaps the book is showing its age...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Characters+Good Plot= Excellent Book, Jan. 13 2003
This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
Brilliant. People swap murders on a train and oh you will have to read it but it certainly is an engaging read. Watch out for the way Bruno wrangles himself to get whats his name to murder his wife. Engaging as it Excellent. Long pages is the only criticism but thats English printing
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4.0 out of 5 stars Poor reproduction of a masterpiece, Dec 29 2002
By 
A. E Rothert (Edwardsville) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strangers On A Train (Paperback)
I am quite fond of Patricia Highsmith's writing, having, like so many others, been introduced to her through her Ripley series. I am thrilled that Norton decided to republished most of her lesser-known novels and stories, many of which I have read already, the others of which top my reading to-do list. The greatest problem with this edition is the annoying presence of frequent typos and less frequent grammatical errors. I found myself having to go back to figure out the meaning of a sentence to discover one of the words was obviously incorrect. I understand that the publishers were probably rushing to get this edition on the market so that they could capitalize from The Talented Mr. Ripley's box-office sucess; nevertheless, the sloppiness distracts from the enjoyment experienced in reading Highsmith's other works.
With that said, Strangers on a Train lives up to its reputation as a significant first effort by Highsmith. Those familiar with her work will recognize the beginnings of themes she continues to explore throughout her life. Primarily, this work presents a sympathetic murderer-- like Ripley-- a person who, the reader believes has to murder. Like Flannery O'Connor, Highsmith has an uncanny ability to place us in the minds of characters who face circumstances that seemingly force them to do unthinkable things. She follows with guilt-- or lack thereof-- that confronts characters based on the strength of their conscience. It reminds us that often the worst decisions are made at times when the choice seemed rational under the circumstances.
I have yet to view Hitchcock's take on this novel. It is, undoubtedly, immensely difficult to portray a story that takes place mostly inside the characters minds on the big screen. For that reason alone, those who have seen the movie should consider reading this book.
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