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3.7 out of 5 stars11
3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 12 July 2003
This Sweet Sickness is a classic Highsmith book. I've read all of her novels, and this one has always held the place of my personal favourite, even though it is less well known than the Ripley novels, or Strangers on a Train.
David Kelsey is a typical Highsmith protagonist: self-obsessed, arrogant and opinionated, with a good income and a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. He has become infatuated with his former fiancee Annabelle to the extent where it dominates all his thoughts. He has become convinced that it is only a matter of time before he persuades her to come and live with him and resume the life they briefly had together - in fact the reverse is the case.
At weekends he has established an alter ago, William Neumeister, who is the perfect partner of his adoring wife - except it is all pretend! As the events in the book unfold (without spoiling it by going into the details) Kelsey is forced to retreat into his Neumeister persona more and more as life as his real self becomes increasingly unbearable.
A tense psychological thriller, This Sweet Sickness unveils an obsessive personality whose mad world becomes increasingly chaotic as it increasingly deviates from reality and ultimately impinges in a fatal way on the lives of others around it.
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on 10 March 2009
Even by her own unparalleled standards, Patricia Highsmith's "This Sweet Sickness" ranks as an extraordinarily dark psychological fiction. It's the story of David Kelsey, a man obsessed by a former girlfriend, Annabelle, to the point where he has set up a home for them both even though she has long since moved on, having married another man and started a family with him. Though he holds down a good job in a fabrics manufacturing company and enjoys a reputation as a model citizen, David spends every free moment of each day fantasising about Annabelle, pondering his next move in trying to win her back, and imagining the time when she will 'come to her senses', leave her husband and come to live with him. He's even created an alter ego, William Neumeister, in whose name he bought the house in the country that he longs one day to share with Annabelle. Spending his working weeks in a guesthouse near his factory, and every weekend, under his assumed name, at his country home, David has to resort to ever more elaborate subterfuges to keep his double-life secret from his weekday colleagues and housemates. Things come to a disastrous head for 'William' one weekend with an accident - or is it a murder? - that threatens to expose David as the psychotic fantasist he really is.

Highsmith weaves her customary web - at once compelling and repellent - in this claustrophobic tale, immersing the reader in the disturbing and deteriorating psychology of her leading man. The narrative grips like a vice, and though David is arguably one of Highsmith's most unlikeable creations - completely lacking the amoral charm, for example, of Tom Ripley - once one has been lured into his world it's impossible not to want to follow his plight to its bitter end.

Though not recommended to the casual reader, Highsmith fans will no doubt appreciate "This Sweet Sickness" as one of her bleakest novels. Unlike most of her fiction, what it depicts seems rather more like an inexorable descent into mental illness and less an exploration of how the moral agent can, in the blink of an eye, slip effortlessly into the realm of amorality, sometimes momentarily, often irrevocably. As such it is a little less subtle and dangerously seductive than her very best work, but it remains as disquieting as anything she ever wrote. And for all its singular concentration on David, Highsmith populates his world with a rich supporting cast of characters, such as the old folk who live at his guesthouse, or Effie, the girl whose intense, unrequited love for David strangely mirrors his own situation. Demonstrating the writer's sublime control of her craft, these are memorably frail and sad creatures in their own right.
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on 3 November 2009
Chilling look at the mind of a man who cannot accept the reality of his situation. Other characters are equally interesting and in some cases just as deluded. While the main protaganist David, is not a sympathetic man, Highsmith's fast pace means the reader never feels claustrophobic or smothered by having him as the reader's point of view throughout the book. More a psychological thriller than an action piece, this has a similar feel to the later Ruth Rendell novel 'Going Wrong'.
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on 19 May 2013
The protagonist is so obsessed with a married woman named Annabelle that he buys a house in the country and secretly goes there on the weekends and pretends she lives there with him, filling it with things he thinks she's like, including clothes, setting the table for two -- a total nut! Fascinating and wonderful as we see his obsession dangerously growing. Dark, psychological, deliciously disturbing.
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on 23 September 2015
This Sweet Sickness reads like a Predecessor to Mr Ripley. Marvellous authorship. As flawed a character as you can get.
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on 7 December 2015
Not my liking expected it burst in to life but no
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on 15 July 2014
I started reading Highsmith's books after reading 'carol'. This is a fast paced story that keeps the reader gripped. I like the older fashioned style of writing and it was a book I couldn't put down. I wish there were more books as good as this! Thoroughly recommend it
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on 7 July 2009
This story, on paper, has all the ingredients needed to make a powerful novel. There is an obsessive unrequited love, two murders and a suicide. However, because I found it difficult to engage with David Kelsey I found myself frustratingly unmoved by his story.

I'm afraid that my expectation of being swept along on a powerful emotional journey was somewhat disappointed. Like Highsmith's now more famous work The Talented Mr.Ripley however, this is a story about a character who appears casually unthreatening but who is in fact highly dangerous. Unlike The Talented Mr Ripley, our central character has little charm to recommend him. David Kelsey is a detached loner who rejects the friendship or affection of anyone who comes into his orbit, save the love of his life Annabelle. While Ripley may have been cruel in the extreme, he had a surface charm which mesmerised and intrigued. Kelsey on the other hand is cruel on the surface and downright treacherous underneath. Because one views Kelsey with the same detachment that he views the world I'm afraid that I found it very difficult to engage with him.
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on 1 April 2015
Quite a good story and as usual when read about one of Patricia Highsmiths unpleasant main characters I felt initially on his side but as I read further I just wanted to s tell him to pull himself together! Even though parts of the book seemed a little far fetched and dated,in present day there are deluded characters like Dave around and people with his mental state do exist.
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on 11 September 2014
patricia highsmith never dissapoints
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