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Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith Hardcover – 2 Jun 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (2 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747563144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747563143
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘This is the first biography … and it is a good one, stacking up oodles of anecdotes and interpretations.’ -- Guardian 12th July 2003

From the Back Cover

Throughout her life she would find herself drawn to a number of women whom she could use as muses, women who have here talked about Highsmith for the first time. Yet the fantasy love affair – a relationship conducted within the confines of the imagination – was always more alluring than the reality and as a result the only lasting happiness Highsmith experienced came through her work.

Drawing on Highsmith’s voluminous personal papers, and the testimonies of her closest friends, Andrew Wilson has written the first biography of the author described by Graham Greene as ‘the poet of apprehension’ and by Gore Vidal as ‘one of our greatest modernist writers’. In this biography he illuminates the dark corners of Highsmith’s life, casts light on the mysteries of the creative process and reveals the secrets that the writer chose to keep hidden until after her death.


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 July 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a long-term fan of Patricia Highsmith's dark prose I was delighted to read Andrew Wilson's accomplished biography. He has painted a full and fascinating picture of the author - her singular interests, upbringing, loves, influences and tragedies using her work itself, diaries and interviews with many of those closest to her. What emerges is a life and personality that is as ambiguous as her hero and favourite creation Tom Ripley. This is the perfect biography for anyone who has ever been simulataneously seduced and repelled by the character of Ripley. Furthermore, Wilson's writing style is both beautiful and compulsive - I couldn't put it down and I cannot imagine a better book on this great 20th century subject
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. P. Sedgwick VINE VOICE on 5 Jan 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a long-time fan of Patricia Highsmith, who I have been reading since I was a teenager, I was looking forward to reading this book to find out about the author, of whom I knew very little other than the basic details of her life.
I wasn't disappointed. Beautiful Shadow interweaves the life of Highsmith and her books almost as one, and demonstrates how the two are so closely interlinked.
It's hard to believe from her books that Highsmith was most contended of individuals, and this proves to be the case.
Her story, which Wilson (although he never met her) has put together with the help of her journals and interviews with friends and contacts, is a masterful account of a tragic and tortured individual, who led a lonely life interrupted really only by the joy she gained from writing and painting.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Vivien De Bernardi on 9 Sep 2003
Format: Hardcover
When the young journalist, Andrew Wilson, came to interview me for his book about Patricia Highsmith, I couldn't imagine how he would ever be able to capture the emotional volatility, the piercing intellectual focus, and the utter simplicity, almost transparency, of her powerful and often disturbing presence. Amazingly, Wilson has carried off this herculean task and given us a Highsmith almost as brilliantly complex and perplexingly ingenuous as the woman herself. Surely the next best thing to having actually known her is to read this superb biography.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jun 2003
Format: Hardcover
About the book: It’s a warts-and-all, cradle-to
grave portrayal of Pat Highsmith and I found it gripping from
start to finish. It is deft and persuasive in its
tracing of the historical and cultural contexts in
which PH had her being, interwoven with their often
corrosive effects on her imagination, behavior, and
emotional mindset, as well as their influence, benign
and otherwise, on her reading and writing. All in
all, and without a suggestion of smuttiness, it is a
comprehensive and comprehensible overview of a
splintered personality----all the more remarkable (in
my opinion) in that the author was able to achieve such
a distillation given the amount of material he could have
added but had to leave out in order to avoid overburdening the book. I think PH would be beyond measure astonished
at the depth and balance of the undertaking and not entirely displeased at the sometimes unsparing result.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sis Ofeel on 22 Aug 2003
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Wilson is a wordsmith extraordinaire. His natural and unique talent for captivating the reader with quick paced and incisive narrative together with what seemed to be a genuine interest and understanding of Patricia Highsmith made this outstanding biography a gripping read and a real page turner from start to finish. For anyone who enjoys top notch writing as much as a compelling story - this is the book for you.
Definitely my top pick for 2003. Wilson is going to be a huge talent in the literary world - move over Martin Amis and co - Wilson is coming!
An excellent and truly exhilirating read....!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By bagoas on 19 April 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book, a real must-have for all Highsmith fans. Thoroughly researched, based on Highsmith personnal diaries and cahiers, this is a literary biography as they all should be: keeping a close eye on the private just to iluminate the pubic, i.e., Highsmith books and her deep, funny, dark, irresistible literature. Go get it!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Jan 2004
Format: Hardcover
"She was a weird, unkind, dissolute person." This is how her goddaughter remembers Patricia Highsmith, and after reading Andrew Wilson's biography, I think so, too. But there were all those great books and stories. . .
In Beautiful Shadow (a reference to the name of Ripley's home in France, Belle Ombre), Wilson describes quite a lot of Highsmith's writing, so by the end of the book, you may have a long list of novels and stories to look for. He examines her influences, her relationships (romantic and otherwise), and her many quirks.
Highsmith was never very popular in the U.S., at least until the recent movie The Talented Mister Ripley, came out after her death. She was more successful in Europe, where fans even recognized her in the street. Perhaps this explains why she lived most of her adult life in Europe. She was never very comfortable anywhere, even in her own body, according to those who knew her, but she seemed less uncomfortable in Europe.
What sort of a mind comes up with the sort of strange, compelling stories that Highsmith did, with their amoral and still often sympathetic characters? Wilson goes a long way toward answering that question in this biography, but some questions remain unanswered, and maybe it's better that way.
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