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The Talented Mr. Ripley
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
The character development of Tom Ripley is what makes The Talented Mr. Ripley one of the great crime novels of the 20th century. Ms. Highsmith is an acute observer and is able to translate her sensitivity into a multidimensional portrait of a successful criminal in a way that is virtually unmatched. One of the most astonishing qualities of this book is that you will find yourself pulling for Ripley, even though he is as amoral a character as you will read about.
We meet Tom Ripley almost as casually as new friends do. It's only by following him around, hearing his thoughts and observing what he does that we realize who he is. Ripley is an immensely capable man who floats like a newly cut wood chip on the surging tides of life, always buoyant regardless of the circumstances. He is extremely impulsive. If there's candy there, he cannot resist it. At the same time, he has so little invested in who he is that he can even be happier pretending to be someone else. He's a man without a core. He is also unattached to the world's judgments. He looks for neither approval nor acclaim. Solitude suits him well.
The story opens as the father of a casual acquaintance tracks Ripley down in a bar. The father wants to persuade his son to return from Italy to take up a career in the family business. Through this contact, Ripley finds himself sent off to Europe as a paid-for emissary with an expense account. Once there, Ripley makes no headway but does develop a friendship with his casual acquaintance before strains start to develop. What follows is one of the most interesting and intricate plot lines that it will ever be your pleasure to read.
The book's largest theme is about identity. Who are we really? Can we be someone different from whom we seem to be? How do we misjudge one another? I don't remember any other crime novel that explores such subtle questions so well.
I recently reread this novel for the third time. I found depths in the themes and story telling that I had missed before. Even if you have read it before, I suggest you do so again. If you haven't read any of the Ripley novels, you have a great treat ahead of you. The next book in the series is Ripley under Ground.
Enjoy a great read!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I read the book before seeing the film, and as such the film didn't impress me much on first viewing, (though it has grown on me since), and I think that's largely because the book's greatness is down to its detailed understanding of Ripley's character. The film was a big glossy Hollywood number which went instead more for being a straightforward thriller, and you shouldn't really despise it for that reason, as it's a good movie. To make a film that stuck more religiously to the book though you would have to make it a much more offbeat, perhaps low-budget, affair.
The characterisation of Tom Ripley in this book is faultless. You do get much more idea of him as a person, particularly in the short but effective flashbacks to his troubled childhood (which is also where you gain your sympathy for him). His journey to Europe and the tangled web that is weaved there is extremely absorbing. In the Venice scenes too you get disturbing glimpses of Ripley's horror of close physical contact with the female sex, even to the extent where he is revolted by seeing a lady guest's underwear draped over her bedroom chair. It is hardly surprising that Patricia Highsmith has drawn such a complex character study, she was infatuated with her creation, to the point that she would sign letters from both herself and Tom!
The other books in the Ripley series are well worth reading but, to my mind, don't quite match the first. A lot of Ripley's mystique disappears when he's leading his comfortable artsy-fartsy life in France, (and in "The Boy Who Followed Ripley", a very late book in the series, I felt Highsmith was a tad TOO delicate about his sexuality, although the Berlin scenes have a sort of 1970s fascination), but in this, the first, where he's a loner travelling across Europe, this is a must-read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2000
My curiosity was pricked in publicity for the Anthony Minghella movie so I decided to give the book a go. Having now read the book, I can't believe Mrs Highsmith has been such a well kept secret - a rivetting narrative that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last. Highsmith must have known what a fantastic hero she had created as she continued with several sequels but this is still the best of the Ripley series. I was drawn to Tom more than any other literary character and while the movie version doesn't flesh out Ripley given it's constraints, I still think Matt Damon pulls off a pretty good Ripley. Read this book and see what the fuss is about - it's well worth it's five stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The character development of Tom Ripley is what makes The Talented Mr. Ripley one of the great crime novels of the 20th century. Ms. Highsmith is an acute observer and is able to translate her sensitivity into a multidimensional portrait of a successful criminal in a way that is virtually unmatched. One of the most astonishing qualities of this book is that you will find yourself pulling for Ripley, even though he is as amoral a character as you will read about.
We meet Tom Ripley almost as casually as new friends do. It's only by following him around, hearing his thoughts and observing what he does that we realize who he is. Ripley is an immensely capable man who floats like a newly cut wood chip on the surging tides of life, always buoyant regardless of the circumstances. He is extremely impulsive. If there's candy there, he cannot resist it. At the same time, he has so little invested in who he is that he can even be happier pretending to be someone else. He's a man without a core. He is also unattached to the world's judgments. He looks for neither approval nor acclaim. Solitude suits him well.
The story opens as the father of a casual acquaintance tracks Ripley down in a bar. The father wants to persuade his son to return from Italy to take up a career in the family business. Through this contact, Ripley finds himself sent off to Europe as a paid-for emissary with an expense account. Once there, Ripley makes no headway but does develop a friendship with his casual acquaintance before strains start to develop. What follows is one of the most interesting and intricate plot lines that it will ever be your pleasure to read.
The book's largest theme is about identity. Who are we really? Can we be someone different from whom we seem to be? How do we misjudge one another? I don't remember any other crime novel that explores such subtle questions so well.
I recently reread this novel for the third time. I found depths in the themes and story telling that I had missed before. Even if you have read it before, I suggest you do so again. If you haven't read any of the Ripley novels, you have a great treat ahead of you. The next book in the series is Ripley under Ground.
Enjoy a great read!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2002
I loved this book. It has depth, complexity and style. There are gorgeous locations - beautiful Italy and France; an absorbing plot; suspense (will Ripley get away with it?); and memorable characters from the insanely reasonable Tom Ripley to the spoilt Dickie and the good-natured but out of her depth Marge.
I love Highsmith's take on Europe from the Anglo perspective. She doesn't dwell obsessively on the strangeness of Europe nor does she whine. Rather, she gets in there and tells her story while letting us share the enviable lifestyles of the characters.
Of those characters, the hedonistic anti-hero, Tom Ripley, is the most intriguing. He is sensitive and able to appreciate the finer things in life but he is also capable of extraordinary brutality.
I love the way Highsmith uses the character of Ripley to explore the fine line that exists between wanting to be an attractive person's friend and wanting to be that attractive person.

This is a great thriller with much to offer. Highsmith tells her story in a very cool and stylish manner and she maintains the suspense until the end. I look forward to reading more in the Ripley series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2006
Patricia Highsmith's first book in the Mr Ripley series sets the talented young man in Italy, at the request of Dickie Greenleaf's father. Ripley is charged with convincing Dickie to return home, closer to his ailing mother and closer to his father's boat building business. However Mr Greenleaf senior does not really understand Mr Ripley, he is a the young insurance executive but a man lost in New York, looking for any opening or scam. So when Ripley arrives in the small town of Mongibello and finds Dickie living an easy life surrounded by wealth and leisure he decides he might just stay a while. He befriends Dickie at first, but a conflict with Dickie's close friend Marge causes his alliance with Dickie to fall apart and Ripley soon comes to despise Dickie the person. But not, significantly, the image of Dickie - Dickie the icon. I'm sure I won't be giving too much away if I reveal that Ripley murders Dickie and impersonates him with relish across Italy and France, always trying to keep ahead of the police and the private investigator Mr Greenleaf senior has hired.

I read the book in a single, sharply focussed burst and felt the warm glow of satisfaction - still thinking about how immaculately the book was executed for days afterward. Indeed it's a tribute to Partritia Highsmith's insight, research and efficient prose that we feel a real part of Ripley's crimes and impersonations. Although he's a murderer, thief and scheming fraudster, never are we not routing for his escape and enduring freedom. Not an easy feat since I can hardly list a single positive trait in Ripley's character.

There are a few loose ends here. Ripley seems to be a totally sexless young man, perhaps the subtext is that he's homosexual. Marge suggests it and Ripley is highly offended by the suggestion. This is the closest we get even of the remotest sexual expression shown by Ripley. He seems to get all his kicks in impersonations and crime. I will add that this is the first in a series, so perhaps I'll soon find new depths in Ripley's character. It certainly has left me wanting more and I would recommend The Talented Mr Ripley to anybody.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2002
Highsmith's style is straightforward, unapologetic and smartly irreverent. Into the world of the blase Dickies and Marges comes Tom Ripley, and they are no match. He is what they pretend to be... Highsmith parodies all that is vacuous and false in the modern hero. That the smug group of American ex-patriates gain any kind of contour and colour is thanks to Mr Ripley. There is nothing cold about him; he senses the indifference of the people around him as only an extremely sensitive character can. It is a profoundly subversive story, where the villain acts out his feelings, where the villain is passionate and uncannily likeable. Who could care for father Greenleaf who sends someone he literally picked up in a bar to ask his son to return home? Who could care for Dickie, who is not only un-committed, but indifferent to anyone, who could care for Marge who seems to pine away for Dickie, but displays more passion for refrigerators? Ripley has the psychological insight that any of the other characters lack, and he has it for all the right reasons, even if he doesn't admit to them. That this sober character with an unhappy childhood, but a real sense of what is good in life turns into a brutal murderer, reflects badly on them and the world they have made, a world in which he has little choice. Gay crimes of passion do not elicit sympathy, and Highsmith is well aware of that. The novel is full of drifters, but Ripley is the one drifter who deserves what those around him pretend to have.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2005
Brilliant - I had wanted to read this for some time and took the opportunity to do so whilst in Nice. The writing reminded me of Albert Camus with its detached air. The introduction by Grey Gowrie should not be read before the books themselves but is illuminating when you have arrived at the end. I had not read Highsmith before. She creates timeless characters who evoke a world we can all relate to but is actually not with us anymore. The pacing of the novels is wonderful. To read these in a hardback compendium was also a pleasure in that handling a well constructed book itself further enhanced the reading experience. The best £10 you will spend on a book this year.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
At times this Highsmith thriller is so chillingly real that it really gives you the creeps. The characters and situations all build a sense of foreboding, fragile egos and relationships create an intense moody atmosphere and as the tension in the plot grows to unbearable levels it is wonderful to see how the author prevents the whole house of cards from falling down round Tom Ripley. It is hard to spot the moment (if indeed there is a moment) when Ripley consciously decides to take his fate in hand and there is a brilliantly delicate balance between approval and abhorrence as the reader connives at his actions. Highsmith is a masterful writer of the psychological thriller, with the equally unsettling Strangers on a Train under her belt at this time. Amazing that Hitchcock didn't also pick up this story for a film. As a suspense story I cannot recall another so good although Barbara Vine has come close. "Hero" Tom Ripley is a fascinating study in neurotic behaviour and the book will leave you delighted but with a profound sense of unease. Perfect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Like so many I was drawn into the world of Thomas Ripley by the film but now I think the film was a silly joke compared to these top quality novels. I managed to get hold of the five books in a box together and was set up for days and days of thoroughly enjoyable immersion in the world of Tom, and later with his, quite perfect for him, wife Heloise. She, a queen of shopping and personal compromise, all out for exquisite self indulgence in creature comforts, doesn't appear in the first book or the film. Indeed having watched the film you might not imagine Tom taking a wife but truly the Ripley Matt Damon played was a calculating, gawky creature compared to the quite unique and original man Patricia Highsmith has created.

So happily the parts of the film that didn't chime with me don't appear anyway in the stories. Matt Damon is reported as saying that having read the books he wanted to go back and make the film all over again, sticking to the original plot. I can see why. Each Ripley could stand alone but for maximum enjoyment it would be best to read them in order.

Most unusual and gripping is the clever way the reader is caught up with and enfolded into Ripley's cool thought processes to the extent that his occasionally impetuous and brutal actions actually make sense and seem forgivable. You really end up wanting him to stay in one piece and survive just so he can go back to being 'himself'; a cultured 'gentleman of leisure', someone you would definitely want on your side, batting for your team. His quirky reasoning can embrace deep loyalties to the apparently darker, naughtier characters he has gathered around him, he gets enmeshed with tricksy shady deals. He has a cheery keenness to help, a warped but definite sense of his own moral standards, perhaps defined as honour amongst murderers. The only killing he comes to feel some anguish about is the first so perhaps that old saw is true that after one...

You may recognise that feeling when you have a nightmare that you have done something quite dreadful, you wake up and gradually feel relief that it was all a bad dream? Well for Tom Ripley that nightmare is true, settling as a fact of life that has to be absorbed, painted over and put away in order that he can flourish.

The fascinating and various European geographical settings add depth to the reading experience. The stories are set some while ago but do come across as fresh and contemporary. Only the use of the telephone, travel arrangements and topical points take you back a few decades. Beautiful Belle Ombre, the Ripley home in France, near enough to Paris for convenience but rural and sleepy in its urban preoccupations, becomes completely real. An oasis of domestic bliss all held together by redoubtable Mme. Annette, every home should have such a domestic goddess, eager to entertain, innocently discreet and kind, in love with the house and family she serves.

I just couldn't help willing Ripley on, crossing everything that his increasingly complicated arrangements and plans would succeed. I was so sad when it all stopped, I wanted to stay with him in Belle Ombre and enjoy the atmosphere for even longer. I was definitely left wanting more.
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