Talented Mr. Ripley, The

by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

8/10

What an excellent, creepy, suspenseful little novel. I loved Highsmith’s small details that continually hinted at Ripley’s psychological instability, his inherent emptiness. He’s a fascinating character and it was interesting to see how closely the movie followed the book, in spirit if not in detail.

Though in the book Ripley’s homosexuality is handled more subtly (logical given the time of writing), and you get more of the fascinating interior monologue as Ripley perfects his acting and remains completely oblivious to his own feelings. One of my favorite parts is later in the book when he only realizes he’s afraid when he happens to see himself in the mirror “acting” afraid. The characterizations are brilliant.

I think what I like most is how Highsmith basically gets you to identify with Ripley, so that you want him to get away with it. The proceedings wouldn’t be nearly as suspenseful otherwise, and it’s one of the tensest books I’ve read. It’s quite a feat, considering the protagonist is more or less a sociopath. In that sense it reminds me of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280. The difference is that Thompson’s protagonists are more sadistic than Ripley, who seems more pitiful than anything.

So great stuff, though more contrived than I’d like and somewhat unevenly paced (certain moments get glossed over while others seem too drawn out). The synopses of the other novels in the “Ripliad” appear to be more of the same so I don’t feel the need to necessarily delve any deeper, no matter how glad I am to have seen the world through Ripley’s deranged eyes for a few hundred pages. Highly recommended to just about anyone, as long as you can deal with casual amorality.

 

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