Title: The Talented Mr Ripley
Author: Patricia Highsmith
After enjoying ‘Strangers on a Train’, I knew I had to read more of Highsmith’s works and what better than her most well known novel ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’? Naturally, I had very high expectations and can happily say that not only were my expectations met, they were exceeded.
In this first novel of the series, readers are introduced to the suave, charming and clever Thomas Ripley. Coming from a broken home and striving to make something of himself in Manhattan, Ripley soon becomes enthralled by the moneyed world of his friend Dickie Greenleaf. Fondness soon turns into a strange obsession when Ripley is sent to Italy to try to bring Dickie home. Ripley finds himself wanting to become Dickie. But will his obsession be enough to make him commit murder?
The story started off a little on the slow side. A lot of groundwork was laid down before Ripley even got to Italy and found Dickie. Although this helped to establish Ripley’s character and give understanding to his subsequent behaviour.However, once it did get properly started I was completely amazed! This tale revolves around lying, obsession, murder and some more lying.
The character of Thomas Ripley was fascinating to say the least. He comes across as someone who would rather live a lie than live as himself; someone who doesn’t quite like being in their own skin. All throughout the novel he lies and manipulates his way out of various situations that crop up. The whole novel is told from his perspective (but still in third person) and the other characters are just there to be manipulated like puppets by him. Basically Tom is no hero – rather it would be more fitting to label him as an anti-hero (if you subscribe to the notion of labels). And yet I still found myself completely mesmerised by him to the point where I actually wanted him to get away with his crimes.
Also, it was interesting to notice the language used. Tom seems to become detached from his own identity after committing murder and actually refer to himself in third person as if he is talking about another person. He actually starts to believe his own lies (clearly indicating his own delusional sense of reality) to an extent whilst living them.
“If you wanted to be cheerful, or melancholic, or wistful , or thoughtful, or courteous, you simply had to act those things with every gesture.”
In a nutshell, the character of Tom Ripley was complex which just made the novel ever more appealing to read. Normally to relish a book, I find that I have to like at least one character in the book or at least empathize with them. In spite of that, this has been the second book (the first being ‘1984’), where this ‘rule’ has not applied.
One of the best (if not the best) psychological thrillers out there and a definite read. Will I be reading the rest of the series? HELL YEAH!