My #1955book: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

talented ripleyThe Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

My edition: Vintage, 1999

Originally published 1955

The Talented Mr. Ripley has been languishing on my shelves for a number of years, and the #1955book challenge led me to pull it off the bookcase. Thankfully, I forgot a great deal of the Matt Damon/Jude Law version of the movie as I settled into the story, but even knowing the story did not keep me from being surprised by the novel.

Tom Ripley is a young American of modest means with some sort of background as a con artist whom we meet in New York City in a bar where he is approached by the industrialist father of Dickie Greenleaf. Mr. Gleenleaf the father hires Tom to travel to Italy to convince his wayward son to return to the United States to take his place in the family boat-building business and be closer to his ailing mother. The rest of the book details Ripley’s adventures and crimes in Italy.

What most impressed me was the tone: I was in the head of one of the strangest characters I’ve read about, and it was profoundly disturbing and at times seemed utterly normal. I was also impressed that I didn’t grow bored of the rich-expatriates in southern-Europe storyline which I’ve found tiresome in other stories. Ripley is fascinating, and the pacing and the plotting he takes on were quite intricate. I’m also a fan of briefer books, and the length of this one felt much shorter than contemporary books I typically read.

All in all, this was a good foray into a more classic story: the psychological work, the creepiness of the plotting: this book stood out a lot more than the only other Highsmith I have read. 

Other reviews appear in Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog, Past Offences, and Existential Ennui (lots of old covers in this post).

I bought my copy of the book.

14 thoughts on “My #1955book: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

  1. Hi Rebecca and thanks for the link! Glad you enjoyed it as well. Agree that Ripley was a fascinating character. I plan to read the sequels soonish. She wrote a lot of stories but I plan to stick to her most well known stuff.

      • I was stumped too! But then I followed up with a noir novel from James Hadley Chase that worked out great. Chase is uh…well, when I finish reading his first book, No Orchids For Miss Blandish, I’ll have more to stay then. Let’s just say the criticisms of his work are not without merit but he’s very readable and a good plotter.

  2. Thanks for joining in with the 1955 challenge Rebecca, glad you enjoyed this. I know what you mean about rich expats – I’m reading one of those at the moment.

    I’ve got myself Ripley Under Ground recently, this seems to be a favourite with people.

  3. There is definitely something about Tom Ripley, isn’t there? Even though you know the kind of person he is, he’s still compelling. Glad you enjoyed this.

  4. It’s one of the most cleverly done books, isn’t it? I love it and, somehow, it never grows stale. (I rather liked the Minghella film version too, thought, simply for the period detail and ‘golden lifestyle’ portrayal – although it differed quite a bit from the book).

    • I have to admit I don’t remember the movie very well, but I’m interested in seeing it again after 16 years. Highsmith books seem unique: I wonder if she inspired a lot of imitators.

  5. This is on my “want to read soon” list but I keep putting off. With all the great reviews lately, maybe I will actually get to it. I want to see the movie too.

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