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The Talented Mr. Ripley

A book by Patricia Highsmith

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Premeditative Murderer

  • Jan 15, 2000
Rating:
+5
Tom Ripley: the name conjures up an image of the all American boy--a little shy, modest and not as suavely in control as a European counterpart. The old adage that one should not judge a book by its cover could not be a truer in this instance. Poor, underprivledged Tom takes his pursuit of the American dream a little too seriously, yet he manages to pull off unbelievable and almost unspeakable acts with the finesse and skill of a master jeweler and the audacity of a veteran politician. Highsmith's impressionistic style enables the reader to get into Ripley's all too calculating mind while viewing his mild mannered sidebars with a droll aplomb. The transition from cornered felon to cold murderer flows unperturbed into one's mind unquestioningly. Ripley's activities are deemed acceptable and surprisingly the reader is not shocked. On the contrary, one finds oneself rooting for him to dupe or subdue anyone who gets in his way. Anyone who has seen the 1999 movie offering starring Matt Damon, will not be satisfied with its director's interpretation of Tom's motives. Instead of the cold, enigmatic, amoral, asexual goal-seeker of the book, the audience is confronted with a flawed nobody who is definitely less than Highsmith's Ripley. The movie version is a haunted soul attracted to homosexuality, buoyed by a yearning for the post WWII dolce vita of America's privledged class and incensed with the underdog's cowed yet vengeful need to fight back when shunned and bested by his so-called betters. Although the movie is highly entertaining, and Damon's performance is commendable, Highsmith's Ripley is reduced to what we are all too familiar with--an unfortunate product of dysfunctional 20th century life who would benefit greatly from prolonged sessions with the best Park Avenue psychiatrist, whereas the 'hero' of the book is perfectly happy with who he is and the decisions he makes to further entrench himself on the path he has chosen. Bravo Ripley!

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More The Talented Mr. Ripley (book) reviews
review by . March 13, 2011
A brilliant suspense built on actual suspense rather than "effects" or sensationalism. Highsmith thoroughly explores the mind of an amoral aesthete, for whom, despite his shortcomings, we find ourselves craving redemption.
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Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
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I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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Wiki

One of the great crime novels of the 20th century, Patricia Highsmith'sThe Talented Mr. Ripleyis a blend of the narrative subtlety of Henry James and the self-reflexive irony of Vladimir Nabokov. Like the best modernist fiction,Ripleyworks 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 ...

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Tags

Books, Fiction, Novels, Patricia Highsmith, Crime Novels

Details

ISBN-10: 0679742298
ISBN-13: 978-0679742296
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Vintage
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