The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Sorry for the short review today; I’m a little bushed. But don’t think any less of the book in question, because The Talented Mr. Ripley is a riot of a creepy-crawly good time.

ripleyMy second Patricia Highsmith, and one of her best known, was the perfect airplane book for my very long trip home from Australia recently. Highsmith is a master of engaging, disturbing stories, and I want more.

Tom Ripley is a con man and, I think I can say, a sociopath. He believe that society owes him something, and he’d rather not have to work too hard for it; and he lives in a time when class is very important. He knows what class he wants to belong to but can’t quite figure out how to get there. He’s struggling in New York City when he’s approached by a wealthy man who asks him to sail to Italy and collect his son, the heir to the family business and a vague acquaintance of Ripley’s. This being a paying gig and a chance to see the world and start anew – and escape the possible consequences of his latest scam – Ripley is happy to play a role, something he does exceptionally well. In the small seaside town of Mongibello, he gets along well with Dickie (the desired son) and initially with Dickie’s local American friend Marge, who may or may not be a love interest as well. But Ripley’s imbalances quickly begin to take over. He is jealous of Marge, and admires Dickie to a disturbing degree. He wants Dickie’s life. And soon, he thinks he has found a way to have it.

The storyline is loosely based on Henry James’s novel The Ambassadors, which makes several appearances in this book. Highsmith knows her way around a literary device.

The key to the appeal and memorability of this story is Highsmith’s ability to portray the completely amoral murderer, the obsessed and insane. This is just the author for those who like to be disturbed! It’s Ripley’s distorted sense of right and wrong that is most upsetting in this book. He is entirely, fully, deeply frightening. More so than any murder or wrongdoing, it’s the depravity within him that causes the goosebumps on the reader’s neck.

Now I really want to see the movie.

Rating: 7 suitcases.

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