Friday, August 27, 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith - Book Review #74

Friday, August 27, 2010
The Talented Mr. Ripley
by Patricia Highsmith

In a chilling literary hall of mirrors, Patricia Highsmith introduces Tom Ripley. Like a hero in a latter-day Henry James novel, is sent to Italy with a commission to coax a prodigal young American back to his wealthy father. But Ripley finds himself very fond of Dickie Greenleaf. He wants to be like him—exactly like him. Suave, agreeable, and utterly amoral, Ripley stops at nothing—certainly not only one murder—to accomplish his goal. Turning the mystery form inside out, Highsmith shows the terrifying abilities afforded to a man unhindered by the concept of evil.

I had such high expectations for this book. Long time ago I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley movie with Matt Damon. I didn’t remember the plot at all, the only thing I remembered that I loved it. Unfortunately, the book didn’t deliver. Either it was because the previous book I read – One Hundred Years of Solitude – made a huge impression on me and after that no book was good enough; or maybe there is some other reason…

I don’t think that there is something wrong with rooting for villain. I love villains such as Hannibal Lecter or Dexter. However, Tom Ripley wasn’t a villain. He was a paranoid, neurotic, insecure little boy, not a great villain. He wasn’t talented, he was just plain lucky. Most of the time, he was passive, floating like a piece of driftwood. I didn’t care for him at all. He didn’t shock me, I didn’t like him, he didn’t disgusts me and he didn’t amuse or amaze me. I was just indifferent towards him, and this is a novel killer – when the reader does not care for the main character. I didn’t care how he will get away or will he at all, at this matter. I didn’t care if he will be killed or end up in the jail (I didn’t believe that any of this will happen, anyway). I just did not care.

I know that a lot of people like this novel and it is considered being one of the greatest suspense, mystery, psychological thriller. I wouldn’t call it suspense or mystery; psychological thriller – may be. And even that… either I’m too hardened by great modern psychological thrillers (books and movies), that I have become as thick skinned as hippopotamus or… well, The Talented Mr. Ripley wasn’t as psychological and as thrilling as I like them to be.

I guess I would give some time to myself and maybe later, in a year or a couple, I will return to the Mr. Ripley series, only for the sake of so many people loving it so dearly. However, for now – I’m deeply disappointed.


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I enjoyed the movie and as much as I had heard about the books, I had a hard time getting into it and didn't find it to be as compelling a story. Ripley definitely left much to be wanted as the anti-hero, even if maybe the description was accurate for his pathology.

Anonymous said...

The point of the narrative is that you are indifferent to him as a character. That's what makes him so unsettling - that you can't categorise or pin him down to a particular 'motive' or 'type' of murderer.

Ovrelia said...

When I'm indifferent to something or someone, the least thing it does is making it unsettling. If I'm indifferent, I don't want to categorize him - I simply don't care. The worse emotion I can ever have towards anything or anyone is indifference. This is not even an emotion, this is a lack thereof. It would have being better, if I would have hated the main character.

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