Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr Ripley


“Anticipation! It occurred to him that his anticipation was more pleasant to him than the experiencing.” 

Title: The Talented Mr Ripley
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Language: English
Publication details: London: Vintage, 1999. (First published 1955)
Pages: 249

My ponderings:

I’ve been postponing writing this review for way too long. I can try to kid myself that I was busy with work…well, I actually was (wow, I’m kidding myself already), but I did have plenty of spare time where I could definitely have got down to writing .

I started reading The Talented Mr Ripley to relieve myself of struggling through Catch-22. I don’t know why, but I’m just finding it very hard to get into the momentum of reading that book. Is it odd that I find it a bit like reading a textbook? I read but a few pages and already I feel the craving to pick up another book and start it. Though my reading pattern does consist of juggling multiple books at once, Catch-22 alone has probably made me start more than 10 books just by picking it up and putting it down.

Ah well, when I finally do write a review of Catch-22, I shall analyse why that is so. For now, let me focus on The Talented Mr Ripley.

This book was a good read – fast-paced, semi-likable protagonist, unpredictable and intriguing. Tom Ripley is a rather misunderstood soul. He has a penchant for impersonating people, but that’s ok, that’s charming. It’s the violence and murder – out of necessity he would argue – that most people would find thoroughly off-putting.

Brb, killing.
When Tom starts a ruse pretending to be a friend of Dickie Greenleaf in order to bring him back to America, he finds himself with money and the potential to transform his persona entirely into that of a respectable gentleman. Upon meeting Dickie however, he starts to fall fast and hard. It’s not outright said in the novel, at least, not from Tom’s own mouth, but Dickie and his girlfriend Marge both have an inkling.

It’s at this part that I really start feeling for Tom. Because he’s suspected of being queer, which he probably is, Dickie and Marge start to treat him differently. It’s easy to see why Tom gets so annoyed that Dickie no longer wants to travel and do spontaneous activities with him. It’s like having a really close friend, that you may just have a crush on, totally change just because their girlfriend/boyfriend told them to stay away from you. Ain’t that depressing.

Cuz girl, you’ve changed.
Of course I don’t approve of the cold-blooded murders, but I feel for Tom. His childhood is just utterly tragic, and sure that’s no excuse, but I think the author did such a good job of making Tom someone to sympathize with. The blurb at the back of my book says that Tom is willing to murder for “money, success and the good-life”; but I feel that he was really pushed into murder from the feeling of betrayal and utter frustration that Dickie would suddenly start acting so cold and aloof towards him.

Tom was essentially heart-broken and angry. I know this makes him sound like a jilted lover, but Dickie was one of the first real friends he ever had, so yeah I guess the amount of betrayal he feels can rival that of a jilted lover.

As a protagonist, albeit a “bad-guy”, Tom is really well-done. His intelligence is impressive, but what I admire most about him is the soundness of his reasoning. You can almost see, through his line of thought, that killing those people was the most logical action to take. To get your audience to empathize with the killer is truly an amazing feat, especially when the killer isn’t placed in a totally desperate situation and surrounded by scum all around, e.g. abused orphan, POW etc, etc. Tom Ripley is the bad guy here, it’s obvious! He’s the one going around murdering people then going back to his penthouse to enjoy a glass of wine. Yet still, still, he has the ability to garner my empathy. Pretty cool.

Cheers, Mr. Ripley.
Would definitely recommend reading this book. It almost feels like helping a friend get away with a crime, the way that Tom confides his every feeling to the reader. As for whether he truly loved Dickie as more than a friend, that remains a mystery, one I feel adds to the story more than detracts from it.

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