Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Needle recommends 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

“If you wanted to be cheerful, or melancholic, or wistful, or thoughtful, or courteous, you simply had to act those things with every gesture” (182).

Throwback Thursday! (or whatever day you might be reading this on)! Patricia Highsmith, author of The Price of Salt (the book that was later turned into Oscar nominee Carol) wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1955 yet unlike some books that are over 60 years old, this one felt barely dated. It is well written and not overly old-fashioned in style, so it’s not difficult to read in any way. 

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller/mystery about a young man, Tom Ripley, who is asked to visit an old acquaintance in Italy and convince him to return to the US. Charmed by his friend, a wealthy and spoiled man named Dickie Greenleaf, Tom’s intrigue turns into infatuation which quickly turns into a terrifying obsession. Threatened by Dickie’s girlfriend and the notion that Dickie may be growing tired of him, Tom falls deeper into his obsession and his desire for living the lavish life that Dickie leads. 

The book is told from Tom’s point of view, although he is hardly a protagonist. In fact, the most interesting thing about this book is that the story is told from such a clearly unreliable narrator, but his reasoning, no matter how flawed, is honest and his emotions are true, despite the fact that they lead to… well, I won’t spoil it. 

There are plenty of mystery books out there, and if you’re looking for a truly suspenseful story where you have no idea what happens next, this may not be the book for you. There is suspense and mystery, yes, but the real charm of the book is observing the twisted, horrifying inner workings of the narrator’s brain and thinking about how easily his mundane feelings of jealousy, greed, and infatuation, which are all relatable to some extent, turn horribly, horribly sour. Thematically, this book reminded me heavily of A Separate Peace because of the corrupting power of the narrator’s jealousy and admiration toward a more successful, more handsome peer. If you liked A Separate Peace or if you’re just a fan of mysteries and psychological stories, definitely check out The Talented Mr. Ripley.