The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

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Cannonball Read IV: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

By Katie | Book Reviews | August 7, 2012 | Comments ()


The Talented Mr. Ripley is not a book I would have picked up on my own for fear it would be too dark. However, I've been enjoying doing group reads a lot and this was the next book for the Constant Reader Group on Goodreads. The book tells the story of Ripley, a man sent to Europe to talk an acquaintance into returning to the United States. Instead, he begins desperately wishing he has his acquaintance's life and even murder won't prevent our amoral protagonist from achieving his goals. I'm sure you can see why I was worried about it being too dark!

Instead, I found it a very light read in two ways. First, it was very easy to get through; in fact, I read the whole thing today! Second and more surprisingly, the plot didn't feel particularly dark to me. This isn't because the content wasn't dark, but because it didn't really make me feel anything. The protagonist was occasionally weirdly honorable, according to his own twisted code of honor, but I never found him likable. So while I was vaguely interested in what happened to him and how everything was going to turn out, I didn't really care one way or the other. If things worked out well for him, ok. If they didn't, also ok. This lack of engagement and interest in the main character's fate did a lot to dull the impact of his more shocking actions. I also felt like Ripley was panicked and nervous at all the wrong times. When he was worried, I thought he was being silly. And when I might have been worried, he wasn't so I wasn't.

I should add the caveat that this book is known for making Ripley likable, so I'm not in the majority opinion on this and fans of classic crime fiction should probably consider giving it a go. The main redeeming feature I found was the author's writing style. As soon as I started reading, I knew this was an old book. It actually wasn't as old as I expected, published in 1955, but it had a formal feel I recognized immediately from Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth - a feel which I think I like. As with The House of Mirth, I was pleasantly surprised by how expressive such formal language can be. One passage in particular stood out to me, where Ripley describes the feeling as though he alone in a crowded city was real and everything else might disappear when he left. I knew exactly what he meant! And I'm sure a lot of us who have been in a big city have had a similar feeling at least once. Overall, this was a well-written and intriguing book which I would recommend much more highly had I become more invested in the main character.

For more of Katie's reviews, check out her blog, Doing Dewey

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Sara Habein

    This really one of my all-time favorite books. Actually, I just re-read it for probably the sixth time, this time for a book club I'm in. I've read the following 2 books in the series too, but I haven't read books #4 and #5 yet. All of Patricia Highsmith's stuff is dark but compelling.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    This is yet another book in a long list of books I gotta read eventually. It keeps getting longer - so thanks for making my list longer, dammit.

  • Katie

    Haha, I've also found that reading book reviews is very bad for my to-be-read list! I hope you do end up reading and liking it though :)

  • Katie

    Haha, sorry about that! I feel the same way about my TBR lists. Regularly reading book reviews is making it grow at an alarming rate!

  • BWeaves

    "Ripley describes the feeling as though he alone in a crowded city was real and everything else might disappear when he left."

    There's a word for that, solipsism. I remember discovering this word when I was in college, and loving the idea of it.

  • Katie

    Thanks for sharing! I love learning new words but for some reason that's one where I never bothered to stop and look up the definition.

  • Quorren

    "I also felt like Ripley was panicked and nervous at all the wrong
    times. When he was worried, I thought he was being silly. And when I
    might have been worried, he wasn’t so I wasn’t." I totally agree!

    I also remember being disquieted by the book, but that was because I felt so ambivalent about Ripley. I recognized the author was trying so hard to make me feel something for him, but I couldn't muster up the effort and I thought something may be wrong with me. It looks like I wasn't the only one with that problem, though.

  • Katie

    Nope, definitely not just you! Part of the reason I liked reading this as a group read was that I did find other people who felt the same way :)

  • Mrcreosote

    I haven't read this book in a while, but I don't remember it being as unnerving as George would think. Perhaps that says more about me than the novel. Katie is however to be commended for the review-Let's settle down a little there buddy.

  • Katie

    Thanks Mrcreosote. I'm glad you don't think I was totally off base on this one :)

  • George

    Jesus! I'm sorry, but some people really shouldn't review books. This is a shockingly superficial and reductive analysis of an extremely unnerving and influential novel.

  • Katie

    @George Dear me. This isn't a literary analysis nor is it supposed to be particularly deep. For classic novels like this, that's been done already, I promise! This is simply intended to convey my response to the book and help other people decide if they'd like it or not.

  • George

    Sorry for coming on a little strong, Katie. I do commend you for putting your work out there.

  • Katie

    Thanks George! I appreciate your opinion but I also appreciate the apology :) I always struggle over how to review classics because a lot of the really clever stuff has been said already. So I don't try to write an in depth literary analysis, but I do try to avoid making it just a fluff piece either.

  • mswas

    @14d1d9c3b2bc9008a0f78905de22d795:disqus I appreciate that you don't agree with the reviewer. However, I must point out, as stated above, that Katie's review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV . Over 240 Pajibans are attempting to read and review 52 books in a year. This is one of those reviews. Maybe next year you'd like to join us?

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