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Small g: A Summer Idyll by Patricia…
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Small g: A Summer Idyll

by Patricia Highsmith

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218553,416 (2.95)12
  1. 02
    Gravity and the earth (The Wykeham science series for schools and universities) by Alan H. Cook (thorold)
    thorold: Patricia Highsmith's last book is about a completely different "small g" from that measured with such painstaking precision by Prof. Cook, but there is a sort of symmetry here...
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This was Patricia Highsmith's last novel, and was published shortly after her death.

Jakob's bar and restaurant in the Aussersihl Area of Zurich is known as the 'small g' because that is how a bar with a largely but not exclusively gay clientele is marked in the listings magazine. Among the regulars is commercial artist Ricky, still mourning his lover's murder, and Luisa, a seamstress who visits the bar with her boss and landlady Renate. The bar is the site of much pining and unrequited love.

It's quite irritating that my own books are taking me a week or two to read at the moment, but I finished this library book in two days. ( )
  isabelx | Apr 26, 2011 |
As Patricia Highsmith's last work, I thought this was an interesting end to her career.

The plot follows a somewhat mistreated young woman named Luisa who is essentially in debt and under the thumb of Renate, a bitter old woman for whom she works and who despises outside company, particularly homosexuals. After a man Luisa has a crush on is murdered, Luisa finds comfort in and begins to get close to the young man's former lover and his circle of friends, who hang out in a bar down the street from Luisa and Renate's building.

Renate is an evil, bitter woman, and is the clear antagonist of the novel. Most of what I've read by Highsmith is somewhat two-sided, showing a sympathetic personality to even the most sordid killer, but there was only bitterness in Renate. All the same, I thought she was good at oppressing Luisa, and I loved the depiction of the crowd that hung out at the bar, all of whom had distinct personalities and roles to play. Luisa goes from a shut-in to a socializing young lady with friends, and I loved watching the transition as she opens up and even begins to experiment sexually.

Unfortunately, the ending casts a very bitter note over the whole thing. Getting free of Renate becomes increasingly impossible, so a convenience happens rather than anything clever. It felt terribly false, especially in a Highsmith novel.

It was still a wonderful book, especially for its depiction of Zurich and the small circle of friends that inhabit the particular corner in the story. It was also more positive than most of the novels I've read by her, though I tend to enjoy the darker storylines. ( )
  ConnieJo | Nov 30, 2010 |
By now everyone knows Highsmith was a lesbian. It wasn't that widely known early in her career, which is why she wrote her single best novel-type novel (ie, not a thriller), THE PRICE OF SALT, under a pseudonym...one couldn't write a book about happy lesbians in 1952! So I decided to read this book, long unavailable in the US, to honor a fellow Queer artiste.

Wish I hadn't.

It's not the best of Highsmith's books. It's not at all bad. But it's just not that interesting. There is a murder in the first two pages, and that seemed as though it would set things off...but it set off a dull little interspecies romance between an older gay man and a young woman, who is under the protection of a dreadful old closeted lesbian. I understand that this character was Highsmith's bitter self-caricature, and that it's devastatingly accurate.

It's got the thing that Highsmith's readers like best, though...lots of spot-on character building! And it's not devoid of action, it's just...well, the Ripley novels kinda spoiled me for action, and The Price of Salt is so excellent...just not the high point for Highsmith. ( )
  richardderus | Jun 28, 2010 |
This was my first Highsmith. She is a wonderful writer and this is one of the few books I wish had gone on longer. Her depictions of youth vs. adults, envy, jealousy and control were fantastic. My complaint is that so much was left unresolved. There really was no ending, the story just stopped. ( )
1 vote ccayne | Feb 14, 2010 |
What's the big deal? Good aiport/transport reading, but isn't Highsmith supposed to be more trenchant?

The gay scene in Zurich, circa mid-1990's, comes across as very small, very marginal and tame. Maybe Highsmith was too old to be attuned.Or mid-1990's Zurich resembled the 1950's in a U.S. big city. ( )
1 vote Periodista | Mar 9, 2008 |
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To my friend Frieda Sommer
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A young man called Peter Ritter came out of a cinema in Zurich one Wednesday evening around midnight.
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Book description
Completed just months before Highsmith's death in 1995, her final novel is an intricate exploration of love and sexuality, spite and the triumph of human kindness. At the 'Small g', a seedy Zurich bar known for its not exclusively gay clientele, the lives of a small community are played out one summer, following the brutal murder of one of the bar's regulars.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393327035, Paperback)

"Like Ripley, [Highsmith's characters] burn in a reader's memory."—Susan Salters Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

In unmistakable Highsmithian fashion, Small g, Patricia Highsmith's final novel, opens near a seedy Zurich bar with the brutal murder of Petey Ritter. Unraveling the vagaries of love, sexuality, jealousy, and death, Highsmith weaves a mystery both hilarious and astonishing, a classic fairy tale executed with a characteristic penchant for darkness. Published in paperback for the first time in America, Small g is at once an exorcism of Highsmith's literary demons and a revelatory capstone to a wholly remarkable career. It is a delightfully incantatory work that, in the tradition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, shows us how bizarre and unpredictable love can be.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:09 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In unmistakable Highsmithian fashion, Small g, Patricia Highsmith's final novel, opens near a seedy Zurich bar with the brutal murder of Petey Ritter. Unraveling the vagaries of love, sexuality, jealousy, and death, Highsmith weaves a mystery both hilarious and astonishing, a classic fairy tale executed with a characteristic penchant for darkness. Published in paperback for the first time in America, Small g is at once an exorcism of Highsmith's literary demons and a revelatory capstone to a wholly remarkable career. It is a delightfully incantatory work that, in the tradition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, shows us how bizarre and unpredictable love can be.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

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