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on 11 February 2013
A cosy, suburban tragedy, I first read this book 10 years ago and since it is still a book I marvel about regularly, I really owe it a review.

As reality continues to disrupt and disappoint Edith's life and mind, she gently but strategically sets it aside when she makes her diary entries. This woman/wife/mother is gently cracking up as her life falls down around her, but Highsmith doesn't give in to histrionics - she describes the chilling, matter-of-fact forward march of everyday life as it takes its toll. For likeable, friendly Edith, things just get more unsettling, bleak and yet completely compelling.

I see other reviewers have already noted Edith's Diary doesn't have the chase scenes of the Ripley books, nor perhaps is it as pithy as her short stories. But it is dripping with Highsmith's trademark darkness and clarity of prose. Give it a whirl...
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 October 2009
In 1956, Edith Howland is about to move with husband Brett and little son Cliffie, to a new and bigger house in Pennsylvania. She wraps up her diary carefully - the repository of her hopes and dreams for the future, it plays a key part in this edgy, uncomfortable but strangely compelling novel.

Things don't go smoothly for Edith. Her son is lazy and resentful and Brett seems to give up on him. Brett's Uncle George, who has unspecified back trouble, foists himself upon them, and Edith ends up having to look after him. Then Brett meets Carol, a new young journalist at the paper he works for.

When exactly does Edith's diary begin to stand in for the real life that is so unsatisfactory? It's hard to answer that, so gradually and reasonably does the subterfuge Edith creates in her own head begin to work. In the diary, for instance, Cliffie goes to college and gets a good job, marries his ideal woman and ends up with children. In reality, Cliffie is a fat, work-shy, drunk - and it's almost certainly his fault that Uncle George ends up dead of a medication overdose.

The ending is chilling as Edith finds it increasingly difficult to recognise the truth, much preferring her fantasies. This is an unsettling but fascinating read.
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on 20 January 2007
This is the fist book I have read by this writer and it was not really what I expected (a thriller as in 'The Talented Mr Ripley'). Up until about halfway through the book I kept expecting something more exciting to happen, but actually this book is more about life as it really is for a lot of people - unexciting and often disappointing.

I found the book interesting and quite disturbing - especially towards the end when my heart really went out to poor Edith. It left me feeling very unsettled and sad but I think it is definitely worth reading. It also made me feel that 'life is too short' feeling and that you should follow your dreams which I appreciate sounds incredibly cheesy!!
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on 14 March 2006
Judging from the quotes on the back, Edith's Diary has much praise to live up to: "With Edith's Diary, Patricia Highsmith has produced a masterpiece" ... "As original, as funny, as cleverly written and as moving as any novel I have read since I started reviewing" ... "A work of extraordinary force and feeling ... her strongest, her most imaginative and by far her most substantial novel."
The setting at the outset is not dissimilar to something we might encounter in Richard Yates: in the 1950s a New York couple, Edith and Brett Howland, with a young son decide to escape the rat race and downsize to the country, for a better way of living. They want to produce a local newspaper which will win everyone over to their left-of-centre political stance. There's no denying, however, that Highsmith lacks Yates's masterful prose: which is not to say that there's anything wrong with her writing on a sentence-by-sentence level; it's just that it's more serviceable than beautiful. The start is subtle and slow, but even by a quarter of the way in, things are starting to go seriously wrong for Edith, though she seems strangely reluctant to tell her diary this, even though she's the only one (apart from us) reading it. Highsmith excels in creating a downward pull that drags you through the chapters, knowing that nothing good awaits you there.
And Edith's Diary progresses satisfyingly, if not surprisingly, and with a good helping of understated tragedy. For a portrait of descent into mental illness - paralleled by other characters' descents into decrepitude and death, and into delinquency and alcoholism - it's as gripping as it is grim. When Edith, less than halfway through the book, haltingly admits to her husband
"I have the feeling sometimes that something's - sort of cracking in me,"
it carries as much weight and force as Willy Loman declaring that he feels a little temporary about himself, or Ishiguro's Mr Stevens telling us "Indeed - why should I not admit it? - at that moment, my heart was breaking." Yet Edith's descent is subtle and slow, even toward the end, when we begin to see things from other people's points of view, and her diary entries are heartbreaking. Another high then from a writer who, along with Yates, must be one of the literary world's leading lowsmiths.
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on 18 October 2015
If you like Patricia Highsmith this us worth reading. It wasn't as menacing as some of her other books. She captures the dilemma if being gay at a time when society valued conformity.
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on 4 March 2016
Not nearly as good as the first book I read of hers called Carol. Was rather disappointed by this one.
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on 6 October 2015
Excellent Highsmith
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on 14 June 2015
Highly recommended
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