Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally got round to reading this having previously read The Blunderer and Cry of the Owl which I thoroughly enjoyed. Highsmith is a master craftswoman with the prose flowing effortlessly pulling you into the world of 50s Italy and the pampered rich that use it as their playground. You may have seen the film staring Matt Damon and Jude Law, which is a rather good stab at it, but you can’t beat the real thing. Being inside Ripley’s head as he makes amoral decision after decision is fascinating and will have you squirming in your seat, or as I did, shouting at the page. Ripley is a vague damaged individual who’s been brought up by his distant aunt but who know lives in New York where he survives off of the friendship of strangers and the odd scam. He is tracked down by a Mr Greenleaf who has mistaken him for a friend of his son Dickie, who is living in a small fishing village in Italy. Mr Greenleaf would like his son to return home and take an interest in the family business, boat building, and enlists Ripley to travel to Italy and convince him to do that. Ripley soon falls in with Dickie and his friend Marge and confesses to Dickie about his father sending him. This cements their nascent friendship but at the back of Tom Ripley’s mind is the constant fear that it will soon end. Highsmith does a wonderful job of letting the reader inside the mind of a psychopath or sociopath if you prefer. Ripley isn’t a blood crazed killer but someone who can only see how the world affects them and not how they affect the world. This leads to a number of murders and an intricate thread of lies that are in constant danger of knotting around Ripley’s neck. This is a great book for the summer especially if you’re sprawled somewhere warm, the surf breaking nearby and a cold drink in your hand, you couldn’t wish for better company.

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