author C.C.Cole's blog

Monday, July 8, 2013

On the Talented Patricia Highsmith

"The Talented Mr. Ripley"

With my typical see-film-read-novel pattern, several months ago I downloaded “The Talented Mr. Ripley” after seeing the film on an encore channel.  I remember when it came out in theaters, but I heard it was boring, so I missed it, without really thinking about it.  In recent days with improved and less expensive home technology, time becomes scarce and movie going is reserved for the “big effects” like a comic book film or new 3-D.  All others for me go to the small screen, so sometimes it’s years before I see new movies.

When I finally stayed up one night and watched “The Talented Mr. Ripley” I didn’t disagree that the movie could have been better.  That translated immediately to me, as a reader, that the novel is probably great.  So I downloaded it immediately and read it in the next three days.  Referencing back to my article on book eating, I swallowed this one whole.

As a brief summary, a young man named Tom Ripley is hired by a wealthy man to travel to Italy in the 1950s to convince his playboy son named Dickie to come back to the United States to live.  Tom realizes Dickie’s life is everything he wants in his own life and takes steps to remove obstacles from between himself and Dickie, and later, assuming Dickie’s identity after his murder.

While the film was a noble effort in paralleling the novel, in reading this well written book, what shines is what cannot be easily translated into film.  The more delicate concepts slip between the lines, and I’m not meaning Tom Ripley’s sexual preference, though it is downplayed in the novel.  The reader gets to know Tom from his point of view, so the experience is his shyness, his awkwardness, the intelligence, and the overall introvert Tom Ripley is.  The novel goes into detail not only his plans and actions which leads him from one ill deed into another, but it also shows the side of Tom that’s a part of all of us; how we feel awkward at parties (at least I do), we think we’re boring, and overall how much importance a young person places the social part of living.

In reading about this novel, some say Patricia Highsmith was ahead of her time.   I can say her writing of this novel was excellent and it is five stars.  Do not let the film fool you on this one; I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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