Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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

When Tom Ripley is offered a handsome reward to go to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, he accepts and soon finds himself living the good life in Naples with Dickie. An obsession blooms and Tom finds himself wanting to be Dickie Greenleaf. But does he want to be Dickie Greenleaf enough to kill his new friend?

I was somewhat familiar with The Talented Mr. Ripley because I nearly took a girl to see the Matt Damon version in the theater back in the day. We opted to see Dogma instead. Anyway, I knew Highsmith wrote Strangers on a Train so I decided to take a crack at it.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a tale of obsession, murder, lying, betrayal, and more lying. In short, it's a wholesome noir tale. Highsmith reads like a mannerly Jim Thompson, especially once things start going off the rails.

Tom Ripley is the protagonist but he's far from a hero. In fact, he's probably a sociopath. He doesn't seem to be comfortable in his own skin, preferring to live a lie than to be himself. He's a liar, thief, and eventually a murderer. Since there are more of these books, I'm guessing he continues his lying murdering impersonating ways.

The book is mostly the Tom Ripley show. Dickie and the rest of the supporting cast don't have much going on other than the way Ripley manipulates them. Actually, having never seen the movie, I was surprised at Dickie Greenleaf's fate considering I expected him and Tom start making out at any moment. Did the movie have this big of a closeted gay vibe?

Like I said before, this reads like a mannerly Jim Thompson book once things start coming unglued. It takes a lot of lying and killing to cover up a murder. I was a little surprised the body count wasn't higher once everything was said and done.

Still, I caught myself wanted Tom get away with it, kind of like Dexter Morgan or Walter White. I guess that means Patricia Highsmith knew a thing or two about writing. Four stars but I'm not in a tremendous hurry to read more about Tom Ripley.

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