Edith's Diary Perfect Paperback
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Highsmith's novels are peerlessly disturbing ....bad dreams that keep us thrashing for the rest of the night (The New Yorker)
Edith's fall takes the form of a psychological chiller, but there is also something larger, the poignancy of her struggle not to go under. She is betrayed by such ordinary dreams (New York Times)
Highsmith probes to the very core of her heroine with a controlled ferocity and single-mindedness that illumines every page of her novel. It is a masterly book, a haunting book, a book that lingers long in the memory and constantly disturbs and delights. (The Times The Times)
A work of extraordinary force and feeling . . . her strongest, her most imaginative and by far her most substantial novel (New Yorker New Yorker)
As original, as funny, as cleverly written and as moving as any novel I have read since I started reviewing (Auberon Waugh The Evening Standard)
Edith's Diary is certainly one of the saddest novels I ever read, but it is also one of the mere twenty or so that I would say were perfect, unimprovable masterpieces (A.N Wilson Daily Telegraph) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Edith's Diary is not a thriller, but a tautly written tale of one ordinary woman whose life is slipping out of control and whose grip on reality is loosening. It is considered by many to be Highsmith's masterpiece. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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...
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.
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!!
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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