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Deep water by Patricia Highsmith
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Deep water (original 1957; edition 1982)

by Patricia Highsmith

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290638,756 (3.71)14
Member:thorold
Title:Deep water
Authors:Patricia Highsmith
Info:Harmondsworth Penguin 1982
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, crime, 1950s, New England, suburban, schizophrenia

Work details

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith (1957)

  1. 00
    Bullet Park by John Cheever (Bookmarque)
    Bookmarque: another subtle tale of the madness that lies at the heart of a placid seeming suburban neighborhood.
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Showing 4 of 4
I admit to being torn about Highsmith’s work. While I love her deep insights into human frailty, mostly in the form of what tips a person over into criminal behavior, I am sometimes impatient with her execution. Subtle and slow I don’t mind if there’s enough atmosphere to keep me engaged, like the way Shirley Jackson infuses her psychological tales with unknowns enough to keep the back of my mind churning with suspicion. Not so Ms. Highsmith. At least in what I’ve read so far. Her novels contain a fair amount of inevitability with regard to what can, and usually does, happen.

Spoilers ahoy!

That’s why it wasn’t exactly a shock to read how Highsmith wrapped up Vic and Melinda’s disintegrating marriage. Really, what else could Vic do but kill her? He couldn’t control her, nor the type of man she took up with (none were up to his high standards for intellect, career or physicality) and so once he’s discovered that killing them off doesn’t bother him, why not go for the source? The moments where Vic shares his worldview about these guys and some of the ways he starts seeing them as less than human are interesting, but in between we get a lot of narrative that, for me, did nothing to move events forward or provide much in the way of character or situation. Maybe that was intentional. To lull the reader into complacency in much the way everyone was in Vic’s life. Either that or they were all on thorazine.

Some comparisons have been made between this novel and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and some of them are apt. Both are about troubled marriages and people yoked together, unable to separate as they head for destruction. And as the characters of both spouses are revealed, they got little sympathy from me. They deserved each other, although I think that Vic may have struck at Melinda more directly and still achieved his ends, but that wouldn't have been nearly as horrific as what he really does. As much as you want to sympathize with Vic, and at first you do, considering how Melinda cuckolds him, but then you realize she is a product of his own making. Whatever unhappiness she might have felt at the reality of her life, he did nothing to relieve. She was merely the means to a placid, conventional life; tool and nothing more. When she realizes it, she does nothing to improve her own state either, but embarks on a kind of marital guerrilla warfare, sniping from deep cover and retreating into social acceptance by just barely staying within the lines. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | May 2, 2014 |
Classic Highsmith situation, in which an apparently civilised and sympathetic character turns into a psychopath before our very eyes. Plus snails. Excellently done, and quite chilling. ( )
  thorold | Dec 24, 2012 |
This was the second Patricia Highsmith book that I've read and I loved it up until the ending. Her writing is descriptive yet sparse and she brings her flawed characters to life in an interesting way. ( )
  KatherineGregg | May 1, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393324559, Paperback)

The great revival of interest in Patricia Highsmith continues with this work that reveals the chilling reality behind the idyllic facade of American suburban life.

In Deep Water, set in the small town of Little Wesley, Vic and Melinda Meller's loveless marriage is held together only by a precarious arrangement whereby in order to avoid the messiness of divorce, Melinda is allowed to take any number of lovers as long as she does not desert her family. Eventually, Vic tries to win her back by asserting himself through a tall tale of murder—one that soon comes true.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:14 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Deep Water" is set in the small town of Little Wesley. Vic and Melinda's loveless marriage is held together only by Melinda's extramarital affairs. Eventually, Vic tries to win her back by asserting himself through a tall tale of murder--one that soon comes true.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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