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The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia…

The Talented Mr. Ripley (original 1955; edition 2008)

by Patricia Highsmith

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3,9561211,296 (3.93)307
Title:The Talented Mr. Ripley
Authors:Patricia Highsmith
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

  1. 10
    As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann (1Owlette)
    1Owlette: Similarities in the unreliable perspective and opacity of the main characters, who also share common ground in their sexual and violent tendencies. In other ways, these are very different reads, with Highsmith adopting a very detached, effectively estranging tone for Ripley. As Meat Loves Salt, moreover, covers a much broader canvas.… (more)
  2. 11
    The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon (thatguyzero)
  3. 00
    The Lying Tongue by Andrew Wilson (jonathankws)
  4. 12
    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (JuliaMaria)
  5. 05
    Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Both Oscar and Ripley are afraid of water
  6. 29
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Wova4)
    Wova4: The GwtDT reminded me of the character Ripley, who is very much a morally ambiguous protagonist with a complicated psychology.
1950s (84)

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English (110)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (3)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  All (121)
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The Talented Mr Ripley, the first of a series of five novels, is probably her best-known novel, made into a film starring Matt Damon and Jude Law in 1999. I saw the film, although it was a long time ago, I realised as I was reading the book that there were some notable differences between the book and the film. This irritated me – everyone knows the book is always better – so why do filmmakers go to the trouble and expense of adapting a book for film, and then change the original story? Argh, it makes me cross!

I feel as if everyone knows the essential outline of the story – so I do hope that I’m not going to give away any major spoilers.

Patricia Highsmith is noted for writing likeable anti-heroes. Tom Ripley must surely be the best of these. A small time con artist, we first encounter him in a New York bar. He realises he is being followed and thinking he is about to be arrested is surprised to be approached by shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf instead. Mr Greenleaf has lost sight of his son Dickie who is living in Italy, he wants him home to work in his business. His letters having failed to have the desired result, Mr Greenleaf – recognising in Tom an acquaintance of his son’s – asks Tom to go, all expenses paid to Mongibello in Italy, intercept Dickie and persuade him home to the United States. Seeing a wonderful opportunity, Tom grossly exaggerates his friendship and possible influence with Dickie – and agrees to the trip.

“Mr Greenleaf was such a decent fellow himself, he took it for granted that everybody else in the world was decent, too. Tom had almost forgotten such people existed.”

Tom has been struggling to make a living, lives in a fairly insalubrious apartment, committing pointless acts of fraud, bitter at the lot he has been dealt in life. Tom despises himself – he longs to be someone else, having lost his parents young, there is a hated aunt somewhere in the background who rubbished him as a child, and to whom he writes dutifully from time to time. He looks at families like the Greenleafs and imagines how it might have been had he had the life he deserved. He gets invited to a gracious dinner at the Greanleafs enviable house – and is soon enough on his way to Italy to look up Dickie Greenleaf – living the charmed life that should have been his.

Arriving in Mongibello Tom wastes no time in running into Dickie and his friends on the beach below the house Dickie has taken, Dickie hardly remembers Tom of course, but invites him to lunch. Dickie is in the company of Marge – an aspiring writer, who Tom instantly realises feels more for Dickie than he does for her. Slowly, bit by bit – like the hustler he is, Tom insinuates himself into Dickie’s life. Tom can’t help but notice how alike he and Dickie are physically, apart from a slight difference in hair colour, he watches Dickie – how he moves, how he dresses – how sure of himself he is – how different to how the world sees Tom Ripley.

“He loved possessions, not masses of them, but a select few that he did not part with. They gave a man self-respect. Not ostentation but quality, and the love that cherished the quality. Possessions reminded him that he existed, and made him enjoy his existence. It was as simple as that. And wasn’t that worth something? He existed. Not many people in the world knew how to, even if they had the money. It really didn’t take money, masses of money, it took a certain security.”

Tom likes to boast how he can imitate people easily, change his appearance, forge signatures. Marge doesn’t like Tom, and he feels just the same about her. She tells Dickie that she thinks Tom is gay – and has designs on him, Dickie laughs it off – but is surprised when he catches Tom trying on his clothes. Tom talks himself out of awkward situations quite easily – and he is soon back in Dickie’s good books, planning trips to other parts of Italy, laughing about the deal Tom made with Dickie’s father. Dickie agrees to joining Tom on a short break to Sanremo where they plan to hire a boat, Tom is delighted that Marge won’t be joining them, but he does fear that Dickie is beginning to tire of him. Tom realises that in order to live the life he wants with Dickie’s money he must take drastic action – kill Dickie, and assume his identity somewhere else.

What follows is an extraordinary cat and mouse game – can Tom really pass himself off as Dickie – avoiding people who knew Dickie – slipping in and out of personas? How long can this double life last?

“This was the end of Dickie Greenleaf, he knew. He hated becoming Thomas Ripley again, hated being nobody, hated putting on his old set of habits again, and feeling that people looked down on him and were bored with him unless he put on an act for them like a clown, feeling incompetent and incapable of doing anything with himself except entertaining people for minutes at a time. He hated going back to himself as he would have hated putting on a shabby suit of clothes.”

The Talented Mr Ripley is a brilliant examination of a fascinating personality – Highsmith explores Tom Ripley’s psychology through the games he plays, the chances he takes and the split-second decisions he makes. He is an outsider more comfortable as someone else than himself. He is undoubtedly a sociopath, but he is also a thief, a liar, and of course in time, a murderer – and yet Highsmith portrays him in such a way that we are able to sympathise with him – at least some of the time. He never quite emerges as the monster we know he should be. ( )
1 vote Heaven-Ali | May 29, 2017 |
I feel certain this was one of the last books I read for some time during a particular period of my high school life and it was out of immediate memory for quite some time. Re-reading [b:Demian|1005314|Demian|Hermann Hesse|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51kDj-Rl-1L._SL75_.jpg|5334697] and focusing on the Cain-and-Abel reinterpretations therein brought it back all at once. The crime is fantastic and absorbing, the criminal mind even more-so. What I remember being most struck by at the time was the indirect revelation of Tom's conflicting passions where "he could have hit Dickie, sprung on him, or kissed him, or thrown him overboard." The violence and desire mixed up and half-understood struck me as perfect in that moment. This is a book I will read again when I have the opportunity to come into contact with it once more. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
It is rare to have vastly differing opinions on one book, but not unknown to our group … and
something that Highsmith’s Mr Ripley managed this month. Denise found that the constant, repetitive internal dialogue of the main character (Mr Ripley himself) tediously dull and uninspiring. She felt the description of another hotel room, restaurant, train trip etc … would send her over the edge! Not only did she not like Mr Ripley, she had no interest in what would befall him (or those around him) next.
In direct contrast was Anne who thought the whole story clever … a psychological thriller that held her throughout the entire book. The impending likelihood that Ripley would be caught kept the reader in a perpetual state of speculation and doubt.
The perfect result for such a novel.

Other comments tended towards the positive. Some found it ‘quirky and funny’, others thought the sense of place was wonderfully done, bringing Venice in particular alive. We managed to do quite a good job of psychoanalysing Mr Ripley and although we considered him a most unhealthy individual, we mostly agreed that he was not a completely ruthless psychopath. More like your average everyday schizophrenic who sees no obstacle too difficult on the way to his aim. Would he have killed Dickie if the need had not presented itself? This is something we, as mere readers will never know, but the odds are good and thankfully, for those of us who want more of Mr Ripley, Highsmith has provided such through two more Ripley adventures – Ripley Under Water and The Boy who Followed Ripley.
  jody12 | Jan 29, 2017 |
I thoroughly enjoyed The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Full of games, deceit, manipulation and murder, this was a mesmerizing read. As much a psychological study as a thriller, Tom Ripley is a character that one does not forget. A conniving sociopath who made his first appearance in 1955, one can still see his lasting impression on many of today’s authors.

The Italian setting made a great backdrop for this tale of betrayal and although you couldn’t help but be aware that Ripley’s crimes would not be as easily concealed with today’s forensics, it was still a fascinating case of cat and mouse. Even though Ripley was a despicable character with an enlarged sense of superiority, it was difficult not to root for him. This is due to the genius of the author who was able to put her readers into Tom Ripley’s skin, while at the same time making the other characters a little less sympathetic. This is interesting because it is obvious that Tom Ripley would rather live in anyone else’s skin than his own.

Overall, I found The Talented Mr. Ripley a unique and thought-provoking story that alternated between being disturbing and exhilarating. A very good read. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Dec 10, 2016 |
3.5 stars. Tom Ripley is sent to Italy by Dickie Greenleaf's father to try to persuade Dickie to come home to the US. Tom becomes a bit obsessed with Dickie, and things take a turn for the worse.

I found the first half a little bit slow, but it really picked up in the second half. I have seen the movie (though it's been a while, so I don't remember details), but it surprised me that I was still on the "edge of my seat" as they were trying to put together what happened. I found it interesting to get inside of Tom's head a little bit. ( )
1 vote LibraryCin | Nov 23, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Highsmith, Patriciaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Banville, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, TomIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prestini, Maria GraziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walz, MelanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way.
Tom writhed in his deck chair as he thought of it, but he writhed elegantly, adjusting the crease of his trousers.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Plein Soleil is the French name for The Talented Mr. Ripley. A film version of the same name made in 1960 starred Alain Delon.
Haiku summary
Tom's deadly passage
He wants to help Dickie now
Into the next life


Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679742298, Paperback)

One of the great crime novels of the 20th century, Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley is a blend of the narrative subtlety of Henry James and the self-reflexive irony of Vladimir Nabokov. Like the best modernist fiction, Ripley works on two levels. First, it is the story of a young man, Tom Ripley, whose nihilistic tendencies lead him on a deadly passage across Europe. On another level, the novel is a commentary on fictionmaking and techniques of narrative persuasion. Like Humbert Humbert, Tom Ripley seduces readers into empathizing with him even as his actions defy all moral standards.

The novel begins with a play on James's The Ambassadors. Tom Ripley is chosen by the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf to retrieve Greenleaf's son, Dickie, from his overlong sojourn in Italy. Dickie, it seems, is held captive both by the Mediterranean climate and the attractions of his female companion, but Mr. Greenleaf needs him back in New York to help with the family business. With an allowance and a new purpose, Tom leaves behind his dismal city apartment to begin his career as a return escort. But Tom, too, is captivated by Italy. He is also taken with the life and looks of Dickie Greenleaf. He insinuates himself into Dickie's world and soon finds that his passion for a lifestyle of wealth and sophistication transcends moral compunction. Tom will become Dickie Greenleaf--at all costs.

Unlike many modernist experiments, The Talented Mr. Ripley is eminently readable and is driven by a gripping chase narrative that chronicles each of Tom's calculated maneuvers of self-preservation. Highsmith was in peak form with this novel, and her ability to enter the mind of a sociopath and view the world through his disturbingly amoral eyes is a model that has spawned such latter-day serial killers as Hannibal Lecter. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:57 -0400)

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The cunning schemes of a young American ne'er-do-well, who travels to Italy on an unusual assignment.

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