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Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,218 reviews9,915 followers
December 4, 2013
Two reviews in one. First, the supercilious parody :

Tom : Oh Dickie, that shirt is so gorgeous. It’s so you. Where did you get it?

Dick : You’re not a fairy are you?

Tom: No! The very idea!

Dick: Well then, I got it from a divine little boutique near La Fontana della Barcaccia in Piazza di Spagna. We should go there tomorrow.

Tom : Oh Dickie, let’s.

Marge (soliloquy) :
Dick is just the handsomest American 25 year old trust fund baby in all of Italy. Or this part of it, anyway. Sigh. I love him so much it makes my eyes slightly bulge. But however much I press my cleavage upon his upper parts, and hang my dripping undergarments within his vicinity, I just can’t seem to get anywhere.

Tom (soliloquy) :
Dick is just the handsomest American 25 year old trust fund baby ever. Sigh. Why he wants to hang around with this gourd-shaped bitch I can’t say. I really would like to wear all his clothes and pretend to be him for a day. No, make that my entire life.

Dick: Tom, for a creepy sociopath, you're quite good company. Let’s go boating.

Tom: I don't know anything about small dangerously unstable motorboats in stretches of water with no other boat in sight, perfectly situated for a murder. How do you make it go?

Dick : You just pull on this here until you can feel it throbbing, then you grab that long thing there and steer it wherever you want. If it doesn't start you give it a good whack with an oar.

Tom : Well, if you say so.

review number 2

This interesting novel is, from a modern persepective, a bit iffy. Conforming to the 1950s stereotype, it elides homosexuality with deviant psychology and gives us a closet gay man* who is so much in love with this unavailable dreamboat - and the dreamboat's lifestyle - that he wants to be him. He creepily manipulates everyone around him and he despises every single human being he encounters, except the dreamboat. The 1950s was awash with sinister gay figures -

George Sanders in All About Eve

( and let us not forget Norman Mailer's 1954 essay "The Homosexual Villain" (he said about that time that he believed "there was an intrinsic relation between homosexuality and 'evil.' ").

The character of Tom Ripley is also self-loathing, another closeted-gay cliche. He loathes himself to the extent of wanting to shed his own personality like a snake's skin and become someone much better. I think that Tom Ripley therefore was part of the problem which led - to take one example from millions - to Lou Reed's parents making him have ECT to get rid of his homosexual tendencies.

Leaving the iffiness of this novel aside, it then suffers from the same thing as all other thrillers and crime novels - we are expecting murders, there's no suspense involved, one's only surprise is that Tom Ripley brains so few people. And also draining the interest away is that we know this was the first of a series of Ripley novels, so we know he won't die and probably therefore won't be caught, murder being a capital crime back then.

This novel is in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before Next Week Or Else and I note it appears between Lolita and Lord of the Rings. Once again, poor little Lolita finds herself in some very dubious company.


*in the second Ripley book he gets married - might be worth reading that one to see what Patricia Highsmith thinks is going on with her character

Profile Image for Matt.
936 reviews28.6k followers
February 20, 2021
“There was a wooden walk that led half across the beach, which Tom knew must be hot as hell to walk on, because everybody was lying on a towel or something else, but he took his shoes off anyway and stood for a moment on the hot wood, calmly surveying the groups of people near him. None of the people looked like Richard, and the shimmering heat waves kept him from making out the people very far away. Tom put one foot out on the sand and drew it back. Then he took a deep breath, raced down the rest of the walk, sprinted across the sand, and sank his feet into the blissfully cool inches of water at the sea’s edge. He began to walk…Tom saw him from a distance of about a block – unmistakably Dickie, though he was burnt a dark brown and his crinkly blond hair looked lighter than Tom remembered it. He was with Marge. ‘Dickie Greenleaf?’ Tom asked, smiling…”
- Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

Like many people around the world, my wife and I are just trying to get through the coronavirus pandemic as best we can. Most weekends, that means sitting in the basement once the kids are asleep, drinking cheap wine and watching Schitt’s Creek. One recent night, after finishing season three, I logged out of Netflix and switched to live television. When I did, we saw that Anthony Minghella’s 1999 film version of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley was just starting.

A stylish, gorgeously filmed movie, filled with incredible performances, we were immediately drawn in, our plans to go to bed at a reasonable hour shelved. We popped another cork, drank some more wine, and somehow decided that it would be fun to do a husband-wife buddy read of Highsmith’s entire series.

I forgot about that idea for several days, until Ripley novels started showing up in the mail. Abiding by the dictum that one should always do sober what one said they’d do drunk, I picked up the first entry in the five-novel Ripley saga to begin the journey.

By this point, The Talented Mr. Ripley needs very little introduction. At its center is Tom Ripley, a young, charming sociopath who is absolutely convinced that he is entitled to more than the world has given him. Early on, Tom is tapped by a wealthy shipping magnate named Herbert Greenleaf to go to Italy – all expenses paid – in order to convince his son Dickie to return to America.

Things do not go as planned.

When Tom arrives in the seaside town of Mongibello, he subtly insinuates himself into Dickie’s orbit. Dickie is a playboy expatriate, the kind who sincerely believes that money doesn’t matter, because he has a lot of it. Unsurprisingly, Tom finds Dickie’s louche existence to be impossibly charming: lazy afternoons on the beach; cocktail hours that stretch for days; and drunken sprees in Rome. Tom soon forms a close bond with Dickie, much to the chagrin of Marge Sherwood, a friend of Dickie’s who is quietly in love with him.

It is hard to say much more plot-wise without giving away the whole thing. This is, after all, a taut, lean, and efficient thriller of less than three-hundred pages. In terms of pacing, it is effortlessly propulsive. After looking down to start the novel, I don’t think I looked up again until I was halfway through. Highsmith has a wonderful way with tension, of carefully tightening the mood so that – as a reader – it’s really hard to disengage.

I don’t think it spoils anything to say that The Talented Mr. Ripley is full of darkness and violence. Indeed, this is a somewhat pulpy novel that is given a high sheen by Highsmith’s literary skills. The characterizations of the supporting cast, especially Dickie Greenleaf, Marge Sherwood, and Freddy Miles, are savagely precise. Meanwhile, the settings are fully-realized. There are times when this felt like a travelogue of Europe in the fifties, when vacationing was a high-class artform.

But make no mistake. The Talented Mr. Ripley works because of its inimitable protagonist.

Tom Ripley is simply a fascinating creation. Though Highsmith writes in the third-person, Tom is the only person to whom we are given internal access. The entirety of the story is run through him, and the tale hinges on his complex personality. I’m not sure how, but it absolutely works.

Of course, you can’t discuss Tom without mentioning his sexuality, a facet of his characters that threatens to subsume him. When Tom was young, he was raised by an abusive aunt who called him a “sissy.” Throughout the proceedings, others outright suggest that Tom is gay, though he denies this. It’s no small point, since the novel was written – and is set – at a time when homosexuality was both stigmatized and criminalized.

Highsmith – herself a lesbian – never gives a direct answer. Certainly, there are some implications that Tom is attracted to men. More specifically, the animating factor in The Talented Mr. Ripley is Tom’s desire to be Dickie Greenleaf. Mostly, I found Tom to be curiously asexual in matters of physical desire. He seems far more interested in indulging his appetite for fine art, fine literature, and foreign languages.

Nevertheless, the sexuality angle is important, because it has given The Talented Mr. Ripley a hint of controversy. In particular, Highsmith has been accused of conflating Ripley’s sexual preference with his psychopathy, as though both “deviancies” – and homosexuality was once labeled as such – were inextricably entwined.

I am sure there is a mountain of secondary literature on this topic, but I have made no effort to explore it. For what it’s worth, I never sensed that Tom’s actions were driven by his sexuality. That is, there was no cause and effect relationship between sexual orientation and criminal behavior. Indeed, one of the first scenes in The Talented Mr. Ripley shows Tom pretending to be an IRS agent, tricking unsuspecting taxpayers into sending him checks for unpaid taxes. Tom, however, has no intention of cashing these checks. He just likes the amusement. Thus, before any homoerotic tension is introduced, Tom is already established as a man who likes to try on other identities as though they were articles of clothing. In short, Tom Ripley is not – for example – anything like Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs, a man whose bad acts seem a manifestation of his sexual identity.

(The Minghella film takes the book’s subtext and makes it textual, doing so in a rather unsubtle manner. Thus, the film and the book make very complimentary pieces).

To the extent that Tom Ripley is viewed as a gay character, time has probably done The Talented Mr. Ripley some favors. When Highsmith first published this back in 1955, there were not nearly as many portrayals of gay men and women in literature as there are today. Many of the portrayals that did exist lacked nuance or sympathy. Now, however, gay characters are much more prevalent, and have taken many different dimensions. They are allowed the same broad scope as heterosexual characters, meaning that while some are good, some are also bad, even murderous (the novels of Sarah Waters spring to mind on this latter point). In 1955, Ripley might have stood out as a negative stereotype or an unfortunate symbol. Today, it’s easier to see him as a villain who just happens to be gay.

No matter how Tom is defined, he holds the page. As the leading man, I was on his side the whole time, no matter what he did. I’m not proud to admit it, but I was cheering for him, in the same way I cheer for the burglars in a heist film. Except in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom is playing a deadlier game. In any other universe, Tom would probably be the big baddie. Here, he is the hero of the piece, and Highsmith’s magic act was in getting me to care so deeply about a person who doesn’t care about anyone else at all.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,195 reviews1,817 followers
January 3, 2023

”Plein soleil-Delitto in pieno sole” di René Clément, 1960: Ripley è Alain Delon, l’amico Greenleaf è Maurice Ronet, la sua ragazza Marie Laforêt.

New York anni Cinquanta.
Tom Ripley sbarca il lunario tra furtarelli e truffe. Un giorno conosce un ricco industriale che gli propone di pagarlo per andare a recuperare il figlio in Italia, Dickie Greenleaf.
Dickie si è insediato sulla costiera amalfitana, a Mongibello, paesello d’invenzione.
Tra spiagge, barche, Venezia, Roma, la Liguria, la Grecia, si dipana un’intricata avventura, che è diventato un classico dei classici, almeno per me.
Un sogno, una proiezione, un miraggio, una favola suadente.

”L’amico americano” di Wim Wenders, 1977. Tom Ripley è Dennis Hopper. Ma il vero protagonista è il corniciaio interpretato da Bruno Ganz.

Ripley è un truffatore, ma anche assassino con pochi scrupoli, uno psicopatico che Highsmith trasforma nell’eroe di una saga in cinque romanzi, che ha ispirato più volte il cinema, e ha ispirato una quarantina d’anni della mia vita. Questo primo, e poi a seguire Il sepolto vivo, L’amico americano, Il ragazzo di Tom Ripley per finire con Ripley sott’acqua, usciti tra il 1955 e il 1991.

Tom appartiene alla schiera esigua degli eroi negativi (ben più numerosa quella di poliziotti e investigatori, di coloro che cercano e combattono il Male): Tom è il Male.
Ma è il Male necessario, quello indispensabile, giustificato, sempre raffinato ed elegante.

”The Talend Mr Ripley_Il talento di Mr Ripley” di Anthony Minghella, 1999. Matt Damon è Tom Ripley, Jude Law è Dickie Greeeleaf, la sua ragazza è Gwyneth Paltrow.

La sua vita sul confine include anche la sessualità: nonostante dal secondo romanzo, spiazzando il lettore, sia sposato a una bellissima francese, Héloïse, ci vuole poco a percepire che in Tom abiti un’omosessualità più o meno latente. Highsmith non è mai esplicita e definita sull’argomento (come non lo fu nella sua personale vita: ha amato soprattutto donne, ma anche uomini, ed ebbe una storia con un gay), rimane reticente, allude, lascia aperta la porta all’obliquo, al mistero, come se mettere limiti, tracciare linee rigide in questa zona dell’essere togliesse linfa e gusto alla vita (è probabile che la stessa Highsmith abbia abbandonato gli USA proprio per il perbenismo sessuale dominante – molto più aperta e tollerante la Francia che la accolse, in seguito diventata Svizzera).
Il fatto è che Tom probabilmente preferisce la castità a una vita sessuale intensa, preferisce la fedeltà alla bigamia, vive di passioni, più che di pulsioni, più attratto dall’arte che dal coroo umano.

Non sorprende che Tom rimanga giovane nonostante gli anni passino, è una caratteristica della maggior parte degli eroi letterari, hanno un processo d’invecchiamento molto più rallentato rispetto al lettore.

”Ripley’s Game-Il gioco di Ripley” di Liliana Cavani, 2002. Con John Malkovich nel ruolo di Ripley, Dougray Scott e Lena Headey.

Come mai piace così tanto al lettore, lo conquista, lo spinge a tifare per il suo successo anche quando uccide?
Forse perché Ripley parte dai gradini bassi della società (orfano, istituti, una zia non proprio piacevole marchiano la sua infanzia) e arriva in alto grazie a forte personalità, impegno e determinazione, Highsmith riesce a inventare il villain che tutti vorremmo essere.
Gli omicidi sono, o sembrano, tutti casuali: Tom aveva un piano, davvero programmava quello che ha fatto? E se invece, ha seguito gli eventi, come riusciva sempre ad anticiparli? Come ha fatto a essere così bravo?

”Ripley Under Ground-Il ritorno di Ripley” di Roger Spottiswoode, 2005, dove ripley è Barry Pepper.

Qual è il vero talento di Tom Ripley?
La truffa? L’arte della menzogna?
L’amore per la vita? La ricerca del piacere?
La meravigliosa invidiabile assenza di colpa?
La mancanza di scrupoli?
L’assoluta assenza di morale?
È davvero colpevole dei suoi delitti, o non poteva fare altrimenti?

Highsmith costruisce la sua suspense a base di psicologia, con pagine dove sembra non succedere nulla, avvolgendo il lettore in una fitta trama di inquietudini, attese, astuzie.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews36 followers
January 20, 2022
(Book 495 from 1001 books) - The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a 1955 psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith.

This novel introduced the character of Tom Ripley, who returns in four subsequent novels known collectively as the Ripliad. It has been adapted numerous times for film, including the 1999 film of the same name.

Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950's. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال2001میلادی

عنوان: معمای آقای ریپلی، نویسنده: پاتریشیا های اسمیت؛ مترجم: فرزانه طاهری؛ تهران، طرح نو، سال1379؛ در286ص؛ شابک9647134134؛ چاپ دوم سال1389؛ شابک9789647134132؛ داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

هنر «پاتریشیا های اسمیت» این است، که طرح شخصیت سازی، و سبک را، با مهارت تمام، در هم میآمیزند، و داستان جنایی را، به ابزاری برای افشا، و وارسی ژرفترین علایق و مشغله ی ذهنی خویش، بدل میکنند؛ چگونگی احساس گناه، و همزیستی میان دو نفر (دو مرد)، که همدیگر را، هم جذب و هم دفع میکنند، از هنرهای یگانه ی نگارگر داستان همین کتاب است؛ ایشان در این رمان، با تحلیل روانهای رنجور، سر و کار دارند؛ فیلم «ظهر ارغوانی»، اثر «آلفرد هیچکاک»، در سال1961میلادی، براساس همین رمان، ساخته شده است؛ ترجمه ی فارسی بانو «فرزانه طاهری» نیز، بسیار شیواست

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/02/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 29/10/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Lea.
119 reviews449 followers
September 24, 2022
In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith exercises an immense talent for making the reader immersed in the inner world of cold and insecure psychopath, making Tom Ripley one of the literature's most famous antiheroes. In very clear, similar to Heminway’s, straightforward, ”no word being wasted prose”, she builds a bit of unrealistic, but engaging story of a troubled criminal very subtly, making you relate with someone who is deeply psychologically disturbed. More than one reviewer from my friends connected Ripley to Lolita's Humbert and even though Highsmith’s language is not so rich and beautiful, Nabokov's influence could be observed in inducing peculiar and complex feelings in a reader towards the morally corrupt main character, and a sense one can both see humanity and get close to characters that openly and consciously make evil choices, which is a great accomplishment that only brilliant writers achieve, as Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov being also a very good parallel of Tom Ripley.

Ripley is so alluring as he is not a boring one-dimensional sadistic villain, but kind of familiar and ordinary even in his distinct psychopathology. He is paranoid, and a bit anxious, even though mundane life and relation with other people bore him to death, he goes through life with his gifts of being intelligent and reading people's expectations and preferences, relating to other people in a way he always knows a right thing to say, being superficially charming, always building a false narrative about his life, adjusting it by what he thinks it will look best in front of another person, impersonating other people whose stories he hijacks and makes them his own.

“His stories were good because he imagined them intensely, so intensely that he came to believe them.”

From the socio-economical aspect, also connecting him to Raskolnikov, he is a part of the lower social class, and he has no money and no belongings which intensifies his feeling of inferiority and makes him even more passionate to build that false persona in order to be accepted into the society of people who has much more riches then him, but also a sense of entitlement to take what life has robbed him of.

“He remembered that right after that, he had stolen a loaf of bread from a delicatessen counter and had taken it home and devoured it, feeling that the world owed a loaf of bread to him, and more.”

So his own origin story is a bit blurry, and not a lot of this is being said about his childhood, except him being without his parents, raised by his evil and dismissive Aunt Dottie, always making him feel guilty for having to take care of him, calling him "sissy", emotionally abusing him into feelings of inferiority and worthlessness, destroying his feeling of self-worth. He is a person who has nothing, and was given nothing by the world, both financially and even worse, emotionally, which why he does not has a solid and stable sense of self, escaping from pain into lies that are in core defence mechanism of fantasy and dissociation, hiding from the others in masks of various persona, inherently being addicted to other’s acceptance. As a result of psychological trauma, there is an eerie feeling of not being comfortable in his own skin is something that haunts Tom, no matter what identity he is presented to others, which is why he cannot tolerate company or other people for long before getting extremely irritated.
As in The Stranger, the existential aspect of Ripley’s suffering is also prominent, his sense of emptiness, alienation and not belonging to this world, a sense of being not a real human person, but an imposter that is not connecting to anything other people usually connect to, not even connected to his own self.

"They didn't know each other. It struck Tom like a horrible truth, true for all time, true for the people he had known in the past and for those he would know in the future: each had stood and would stand before him, and he would know time and time again that he would never know them, and the worst was that there would always be the illusion, for a time, that he did know them, and that he and they were completely in harmony and alike."

Tom anticipating being rejected and abandoned by Dickie Greenleaf, makes him commit a terrible, heartless, premeditated crime only to steal Dickie's identity. Dickie Greenleaf in a way is a symbol of everything that Tom never had, his symbolic value to Ripley is mirrored also in his name. Being born in great wealth, never to be bothered about the money, even not really working for a day in his life, being adored and acclaimed for what he is, never having a need to be fake, and most importantly, being so loved and missed by his parents that they would give anything to get him back home. Dickie was dealt so much better hand than Tom in life, in many more profound ways than wealth and social aspect, which seems like the most prominent one at first glance, even Tom convincing himself that access to Dickie’s wealth is the main reason for the murder.

“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.”

One thing both Tom and Dickie share is a complex relationship with their own sexuality. Both seem to be closeted homosexuals, or at best sexually confused, not having the courage to explore that question, rigid in denying it, even to themselves, and deeply embedded in shame and guilt characteristic of that era, but being present in a modern-day also. Some critiqued the book for making the main villain character closeted homosexual, but I don’t think that the portrait is unfair, as both the victim of the crime is in the same position as our protagonist antihero.
Perplexing Tom’s relationship to his own sexuality adds layers to his complexity as a character and his internal motivation for the crime. The victim of his crime is someone he did and wanted to identify with, someone he looked up to, envied, lusted for, adored, and hated at the same time. Love ties its bond close to hate again, as acts of aggression are often most passionate to the objects of adoration, both wanting to destroy and own them in the final act of death and mutilation.

“Tom envied him with a heartbreaking surge of envy and self-pity.”

The main motive behind Tom’s crime is not access to Dickie's wealth to his essence, the core of his self, that he wanted to possess, to be him and to be with him forever mirroring also the psychological complexity of homosexuality, but really, sexuality in general.

The philosophical question of changing one’s identity which changes the person is interestingly posed in this novel, reminding me of Pirandello’s Late Mattia Pascal with the core notion of being caged in your own self. It was almost heartbreaking seeing how egodystonic it was for Tom to get back into his own self, to Tom Ripley again after he taste the (even very limited but psychologically real) freedom of being someone else.

“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.”

Thanks to Highsmith we can observe and experience on the reader’s level how psychologically, emotionally, socially and existentially distressed a person with psychopathic tendencies really can be in a dark labyrinth of own inner web of lies and false narrative, making us relate, or even root for them. But one thing is certain, occasional feeling of uneasiness in own existence is universal.
Profile Image for Jean-Luke.
Author 1 book395 followers
July 22, 2022
Well, I seem to have a thing for spoiled rich brats like Sebastian Flyte and Dickie Greenleaf, who have much in common. Including that the actors who portrayed their film versions were so very handsome. And then there's Tom Ripley. In the same way I should feel repulsed by my attraction to Zac Efron in his portrayal of Ted Bundy, I should probably feel repulsed by my attraction to Tom Ripley. But I don't--he can take me out boating any day.

Oh, the Talented Ms Highsmith! Unlike in the movie version, she directly addresses the gay elephant in the room. I'm not queer, I'm just obsessed with you and literally want to have your babies. Or, in the letter Tom fantasizes about writing to Marge. Me and Dickie are very happy together. Excuse me while I go and find some Dickie Greenleaf/Tom Ripley fan fiction.

On second reading I was constantly reminded of Andrew Cunanan (Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History) and this is once more a testament to Patricia Highsmith's skill. Having recently finished Muriel Spark's The Public Image, also set in Rome and dealing with media sensation, it struck me how much of this book revolves around newspapers/tabloids. And so much correspondence, which I love!

Having seen the movie a few too many times, I found myself missing the character of Meredith Logue, but the author can't be faulted for that. And where's the romance between Ripley and Peter Smith-Kingsley, damnit? The movie ending is probably slightly more effective than the one in the book--there's more of a sense of inner turmoil rather than Tom's cue-pure-evil-smirk-triumph. Why does the triumph of evil feel so good sometimes? Perhaps only in fiction.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,301 reviews450 followers
April 15, 2020
I'm giving this novel 5 big stars because while I was reading I was not in my apartment trying to isolate from Covid-19, but in Italy involved in all sorts of crime and deception and trying to stay one step ahead of suspicious friends and the police. I was able to pick up some pointers if I ever sink low enough to do what Tom Ripley did, but I doubt that will ever happen. It was a lot of fun to read about though, complete with moments of panic, pounding heart, and cold chills. This was my first book by The Talented Ms. Highsmith, and I fully appreciate her skills and reputation.

I have been trying to concentrate on comfort reads during this time, and this was a foray into different territory, but worth every minute. Going onto my favorites list. Excuse me while I go search for this movie, without leaving my home, of course.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
July 22, 2017
Anticipation! It occurred to him that his anticipation was more pleasant to him than the experiencing.”
― Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley


Highsmith is amazing. She alludes to Henry James, plays with Nabokovian style, James Cain's dialogue, and blends it all with a Camus-like modern existentialism. Plus, the goddess walked around with snails in her purse. Face it, pretenders, 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' is an amazing psychological crime novel. This is one of those books which should be used as evidence to highlight the case that some of the best literature of the 20th Century came out of genre fiction. The novel is high-wire, high-risk, high-reward masterpiece. It leaves me amazed the Cure didn't just write their existential anthem to Highsmith:

I can turn
And swim away
Or I can raise up my oar
Staring at a boat
Staring far ashore
Whichever I chose
It amounts to the same
Absolutely nothing.

I'm alive
I'm dead
I'm lying Tom Ripley
Killing a Signor.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
5,113 reviews728 followers
March 30, 2023
One of the most chilling characters in literature I have ever encountered. Tom Ripley is all the more horrifying because of his total lack of empathy; someone who has looked into the abyss and thinks nothing of pushing others into it while laughing. The 'grandaddy' of all serial killers in popular culture.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
November 1, 2013
When Tom Ripley is offered a handsome reward to go to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, he accepts and soon finds himself living the good life in Naples with Dickie. An obsession blooms and Tom finds himself wanting to be Dickie Greenleaf. But does he want to be Dickie Greenleaf enough to kill his new friend?

I was somewhat familiar with The Talented Mr. Ripley because I nearly took a girl to see the Matt Damon version in the theater back in the day. We opted to see Dogma instead. Anyway, I knew Highsmith wrote Strangers on a Train so I decided to take a crack at it.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a tale of obsession, murder, lying, betrayal, and more lying. In short, it's a wholesome noir tale. Highsmith reads like a mannerly Jim Thompson, especially once things start going off the rails.

Tom Ripley is the protagonist but he's far from a hero. In fact, he's probably a sociopath. He doesn't seem to be comfortable in his own skin, preferring to live a lie than to be himself. He's a liar, thief, and eventually a murderer. Since there are more of these books, I'm guessing he continues his lying murdering impersonating ways.

The book is mostly the Tom Ripley show. Dickie and the rest of the supporting cast don't have much going on other than the way Ripley manipulates them. Actually, having never seen the movie, I was surprised at Dickie Greenleaf's fate considering I expected him and Tom to start making out at any moment. Did the movie have this big of a closeted gay vibe?

Like I said before, this reads like a mannerly Jim Thompson book once things start coming unglued. It takes a lot of lying and killing to cover up a murder. I was a little surprised the body count wasn't higher once everything was said and done.

Still, I caught myself wanted Tom get away with it, kind of like Dexter Morgan or Walter White. I guess that means Patricia Highsmith knew a thing or two about writing. Four stars but I'm not in a tremendous hurry to read more about Tom Ripley.
Profile Image for Robin.
494 reviews2,733 followers
November 17, 2015
The first thing that struck me when reading this book was how stark, spare and (dare I say) Hemingway-like her writing is. Not a doily to be found in this book. Each word in its place. And I loved that. Also, this woman knows her way around a psychopath! She really understands and shows in such a believable and ruthless way, the inner working's of Ripley's mind. LOVED that too.

Ripley isn't just a guy who likes to kill - he's more complex. He is full of self-loathing... there's some closet homosexuality at play too, I think... and he enjoys taking on the identity of others so that he can completely leave his own self behind. This is fascinating. Hopefully we will learn more about that in the books to come.

The 1999 movie was constantly playing through my head (it's a favourite of mine) and I saw immediately the creative license that was taken; certain characters and plotlines simply didn't exist in the book, but I can see how they served to show Ripley and Dickie's characters more completely, so I can forgive the divergence from the original material.

The book was written in 1955 but I marvel about how timeless it reads - aside from certain details (like how it was a big deal for Dickie to acquire a fridge in the small Italian town he lived in), it feels modern.

I will definitely read more of her works - there are plenty to choose from aside from the "Ripliad" :)

* A favourite quote from this book, which illustrates for me how alien Tom feels, and is:

"They didn't know each other. It struck Tom like a horrible truth, true for all time, true for the people he had known in the past and for those he would know in the future: each had stood and would stand before him, and he would know time and time again that he would never know them, and the worst was that there would always be the illusion, for a time, that he did know them, and that he and they were completely in harmony and alike."

Profile Image for Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile.
2,043 reviews632 followers
February 19, 2021
While it seemed to have a slow build in the beginning and took me awhile to get into it, I think it was probably my own distractions instead of the book’s fault. It certainly does amp up and is crazy tense at times, even though I’ve seen the movie countless times! I’m still amazed he got away with it all and am looking forward to the next books.
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,717 followers
April 23, 2016
"His stories were good because he imagined them intensely, so intensely that he came to believe them."

Tom Ripley has to be one of the most intriguing characters I've come across in a while – "talented", perhaps some would say so, but mostly conniving, obsessive, self-loathing, and quite lucky. Viewing everything from his perspective was fascinating and disturbing. I'm not sure if I was supposed to identify with him or not! I certainly never felt any empathy towards him, but at times, while not exactly rooting for him, I still felt as if I was placed in the position of a partner in his exploits. The Talented Mr. Ripley is an intense psychological thriller that builds to the peak of suspense a bit slowly and then erupts to a biting your nails, edge of your seat kind of pitch. I went into this book mostly unaware of the plot – I think this is the best way to enjoy this book. If you've seen the movie already or read too many descriptions of the story line, then I would imagine this would lessen the jolt you would otherwise experience. The vivid descriptions of Italy are captivating and I found myself wanting to visit this country even more earnestly than before. Having read the book, the movie will likely be less sensational; but the promise of being able to view the beautiful scenery on my television screen has me greatly anticipating watching this regardless. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a classic and rather brilliant psychological thriller. I have deducted one star only due to the fact that I reached a point where I felt this became slightly unbelievable; however the entertainment value allows this to be just a very minor criticism of the book as a whole.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,978 reviews1,989 followers
July 10, 2017
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante. A dark reworking of Henry James's The Ambassadors, The Talented Mr. Ripley—is up to his tricks in a 90s film and also Rene Clement's 60s film, "Purple Noon."

My Review: This nail-biting page-turner is the first of Patricia Highsmith's novels featuring amoral, mass-murdering sociopath and all-around bon vivant Tom Ripley.

What can I add to the generations of praise heaped on Highsmith's male alter ego? What else need be said? What delicious evil, what glamourous grue, and told with such economy of language!

Well, for one thing, Tom's as bent as a bow, and because the book came out (!) in 1955 it wasn't possible to say frankly that he was *that way* and so was Dickie (!!) Greenleaf and Marge was a big ol' fag hag and Daddy Greenleaf was sending Tom to Italy in hopes that a cute boy would succeed where a revolted father failed to convince his queer son to return to a soul-killing life of pretending to be straight.

And now that I'v delivered the post-Stonewallization of the book, I return to the text as presented.

The characters are all deftly drawn to present us their essences in a short burst: Tom cruising bars and letting an older man (Pa Greenleaf) pick him up; Dickie resisting Tom's charm until Marge, acting as wing man, throws them together; Marge then doing the twist as she sees her efforts rewarded with too much success. It's all done in 30pp and it's set from there on, so suspense has to be created with audacity on the writer's part. We're drawn into Tom's troublingly untroubled world of crime, we're seduced into seeing the problems of Tom's murders from his point of view as puzzles to be solved in order to protect his now-customary lifestyle.

It's a very difficult feat to pull off. It's even more amazing when one considers the author, a big ol' dyke, was writing in one of Murrica's most homophobic AND law-and-order obsessed eras. Highsmith, from all reports an unpleasant person to know, does this difficult balancing act with an assured hand at the storytelling tiller and a character-compass that pointed true north at all times. This is high quality storytelling, done in simple, unadorned prose. It is very much recommended and it's worth your time.
Profile Image for William2.
759 reviews3,076 followers
February 9, 2020
I've been dabbling in some of the classic thriller writers. Georges Simenon and Leonardo Sciascia, too. It is summer (in the northern hemisphere) after all.

The Talented Mr. Ripley will have you squirming in your seat. Tom Ripley is a man with champagne tastes and a beer pocket book. He possesses very low self-esteem, very little money and he is undoubtedly a closeted queer. He likes queers, likes to be among them, but doesn't like admitting to himself that this is so. Mr. Ripley's talent is an extraordinary gift for forgery, impersonation, mimicry and murder which with him become a form of self delusion. Add to this nerves of steel in the midst of interrogation, including the ability to formulate convincing fictions that is on a par with his creator, and you have the makings of more than a few hair-raising scenes.

Dickie Greenleaf is AWOL from his father's shipbuilding firm in New York City and living in Mongibello, Italy. Dickie's father tracks Tom Ripley down in a New York bar. For some reason, he thinks that Tom's friendship with his son was consequential in a way it never was. Mr. Greenleaf offers to cover Tom's costs if he will go to Italy and talk Dickie into returning home. Alas, Mama Greenleaf is dying of cancer.

Tom goes over, immediately becomes jealous of Marge, Dickie's lover. She repulses him in every way; women in general sicken him. Tom charms Dickie and moves in with him, estranging him from Marge. He is so in love with him and doesn't even know it. He is also very envious of Dicky's tremendous wealth and advantages. Tom begins to see a way in which he might subsume Dickie. So when Dickie intimates that Tom is queer, as he unquestionably is, Tom kills him with an oar in a motorboat then anchors his corpse to the sea floor.

Well, that's all you need to know to get started. What follows is a masquerade in which Tom switches places with Dickie and back again to foil the ever present policia. A novel of plot and lots of fun. A real knucklebiter. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,361 reviews795 followers
December 17, 2015
First off, Mr. Tom Ripley is no sociopath. While he is skilled at social manipulation, this is not out of the need to hide the fact that he has no capacity for emotion. Judging by his frequent mood swings, he most likely has some flavor of manic-depressive disorder. Now, with that out of the way, we can begin.

Identity is a tricky business. If it was anything but, I wouldn't have found this book nearly as fascinating as I did. Murder mysteries are not my cup of tea, and while the setting was delightful in its foreignness and experiencing the story from the culpable person's viewpoint was interesting in itself, these aspects would not have balanced out my lack of interest in the details of the plot.

Lucky for the book, one particular aspect of the narrator made the story much more engaging than it would have been without, one that is encompassed here:
Being Tom Ripley had one compensation, at least: it relieved his mind of guilt for the stupid, unnecessary murder of .

What a line! This narrator was guilty regardless of who he thinks he is, that much is sure. But somehow, the mental acrobatics that enabled him to line themselves up with a different identity, also absolved him in his mind of a murder! How was this accomplished? Did he actually believe that he was a different person at the time of the crime, and that both identity and its guilt are determined by a state of mind rather than physical form?

Sure. Why not? Don't we do that all the time? There are the extreme examples shown by criminals living out their sentence in jail, undergoing the equation of 'guilty man + x amount of years in jail = innocent man'. A change in a state of both being and mind that absolves one of guilt. Then there are the medium examples of getting married, having kids, modifying your identity through the addition of a new relationship that makes you someone's parent or spouse. Perhaps, in the case of marriage, absolving you of feeling guilt about having a child out of wedlock. And then you have the rather trivial examples of changing your appearance or acquiring a material object of some significance. How about a tattoo removal that also removes the feeling of guilt caused by a not so pristine past? Your identity shifts with all of these changes. It's not only a matter of who you are, but how long that who lasts.

Here's a personal example. A few months ago I was well on my way to getting a degree as a bioengineer. Nearly there, in fact. But things change, and today I am looking to forward to majoring in English. In essence, I killed Aubrey the bioengineer, appropriated their social status, mental capabilities, and physical form, and am now living out my life as Aubrey the English major, same in practically everything except for determined career path. Aubrey the bioengineer was feeling guilty about not having found a research lab position. Aubrey the English major has no use for such feelings. Not only had I done away with feelings of guilt, I had done it in such a way that I will never be convicted of a crime, because unlike Tom and his appropriated Dickey identity, all of this happened in my head. Strange way to think of it, isn't it.

Now, can you imagine Mr. Tom Ripley, master of social manipulation and integration into the selves of others, on the Internet? It'd take him a while to get used to the lack of body language and other visual cues, but he'd get the hang of it eventually. Would make for an interesting story, that.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,483 reviews7,781 followers
August 22, 2017
Find all of my reviews at:

3.5 Stars

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I came upon a little list recently called “17 Books for People Who Hate People” and I immediately thought, “hey, that’s me!” Mitchell concurred. I ended up with a super stinker as my first selection, but luckily I fared better with The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I knew the premise of this book to be Tom Ripley, an acquaintance of Dickie Greenleaf, is asked by Dickie’s father to go to Italy and attempt to convince Dickie to return to the U.S. I also knew at some point Tom’s developing friendship with Dickie while in Europe morphs into more of an obsession and that . . . . stuff happens. (No spoilers on this one, friends.) That was about it, though. I had never seen the movie because this . . . .

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is the most punchable face in all of mankind and I just can’t watch his movies. Completely unfounded and I’m sure Mr. Damon is a pleasant fellow, but I want to slap the crap out of him whenever I see him. (How will I ever deal with the movie version of The Martian????? Ohhhhhh woe is me!) I also can’t forget to mention the film co-starred Goop as the leading lady and, well, eww . . .

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The one thing that might be worth taking a little looksee is this . . .

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Purrrrrrr. Anyway, enough about the movie I never saw. This is a book review (and obviously a super highbrow one at that). For a story that is 60 years old, The Talented Mr. Ripley holds up to the test of time remarkably well. There are a few “lost in translation” moments when dealing with things like money and the idea that a couple grand is a giant bankroll that will float you through Europe almost indefinitely, as well as the use of outdated lingo such as “sissy” or “pansy” used to describe Tom. Speaking of, I’m sure some might take offense to whether or not Tom was attracted to Dickie sexually being used as kind of a giant pink elephant in the room throughout the story, but I thought it worked well as a diversionary tactic. It helped hide the fact that Tom was not interested in anyone sexually (which he flat out tells you through his narrative), but he was quite possibly a sociopath who had fixated on obtaining a lifestyle like Dickie’s that no one seemed to notice.

Recommended to anyone interested in a real slow roller type of suspense novel, an addition to your “modern classics” list, or those of you who like to read about people you’re supposed to hate (but really kind of love). Half star removed because there are FOUR more of these in the series? NOOOOOOOPE. As far as I’m concerned, this one is a standalone. Tom’s story does not have enough material for more books and I don’t believe the others could even come close to being as good as the first.
Profile Image for Annemarie.
250 reviews698 followers
May 22, 2020
Actual rating: 2.5 🌟's

Oh boy, unfortunately this book was not as good as I had hoped it to be. It wasn't the worst book I have ever read or anything like that, but there were times when I disliked it quite a bit.

The writing style just was not for me. There was a lot of telling instead of showing, something I dislike severely. Because of this, I often felt disconnected and like I missed some vital information of character development. It seemed like the story was constantly two steps ahead of me and I just couldn't follow. Thus, I felt kind of bored and disappointed. Even though the plot points were actually really interesting. The execution just wasn't for me. Which is a shame, because I quite liked the characters and cared for them, but all in all, it just...wasn't enough for me.
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,491 reviews2,729 followers
October 18, 2022
His stories were good because he imagined them intensely, so intensely that he came to believe them

Rereading this it's clear to see that this first book of the 'Ripliad' is really a 'making of Ripley' story as Tom gradually sheds his unsatisfactory identity - or, rather, comes to sees it as an identity which he can slip on and off at will, becoming 'Tom Ripley', a persona he coolly observes from the outside.

There is no name for the inner man who looks out through Tom's eyes, sometimes reverting to a nervous, stammering, and deeply insecure character who loves art and beautiful things and who considers it deeply unfair that he has been born without the wealth he deserves.

At other times, a more suave and sophisticated persona is emerging, newly born into a privilege and confidence he has created for himself - the ultimate act of self-fashioning built on murder that is never enjoyed but which to 'Ripley' is necessary.

It's well-known that Highsmith saw herself in Ripley, though her acts of intense imagination happened on the page. This is even more fascinating on a reread, not least in seeing how 'Ripley' is born, given what we know of what he will become.
So cool, so dark, this is one of those books that can be rushed through for the surface story of the suave psychopath, Tom Ripley, and his iconic encounter with poor little rich boy, Dickie Greenleaf (green leaf, ha!) but there's so much more going on beneath the surface that it's worth lingering.

Highsmith is brilliant at inserting tiny moments of unease and offness, sometimes just a word in an unexpected place, and in contrasting her scenes: the dim, smoky bar where Ripley meets Greenleaf senior giving rise to the bright sunshine of Italy where the shadiest things happen.

She also makes fine uses of literary tropes: the eroticised triangle (though where do Ripley's real interests lie?), questions of constructed selves and identities, the outsider who wants to be inside, and the overturning of crime novel structures: here we're in the head - and on the side? - of the perpetrator, holding our breath as the police close in on him...

So much is beneath the surface and we're on tenterhooks for what might float up into view. A masterclass in tension, in refusing to overwrite, in holding back the physical violence so that when it erupts it's sickening, in unnerving the reader as much through exposing our fictional alliances as in the story itself. I've read so many tame imitations of Highsmith's Ripley plot - this original is more dynamic and downright nail-biting than all of them put together!
Profile Image for Melki.
6,044 reviews2,390 followers
January 11, 2018
I was not a big fan of Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, so I wasn't really looking forward to tackling another of her novels. Fortunately, I had a much better experience with Tom Ripley. Oh, if only his other acquaintances could say the same . . .

Our story begins with Ripley being sent to Italy to talk Dickie Greenleaf, the prodigal son of a wealthy man, into coming home. The two guys hit it off, and spend some time bopping around Europe like two Ken dolls on holiday. But things turn ugly when Ripley senses his time as Dickie's favorite toy may be coming to an end.

Written in 1955, this one manages to stand the test of time, and still seems fresh and surprising. Highsmith featured her character Ripley in four more novels. This book has inspired two movies - 1960's Purple Noon and the 1999 version which starred Howdy Doody Matt Damon.

This is a damn fine thriller, and one of those make-you-feel-skeevy-rooting-for-the-bad-guy books. On the whole, I enjoyed it very much. My only complaint? One of the same problems I had with Strangers on a Train: how can a female writer create such bland and uninteresting female characters? No wonder no one wants to hang out with poor Marge. She's not only boring, she's annoying as hell. But . . . Ripley's the star of this show, and oh, how he shines. I am tempted to follow him into another book just to see what happens next.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is our January read in the Pulp Fiction group - There's still plenty of time if you'd like to join us for the discussion. Martinis and pernod are recommended.
Profile Image for Francesc.
459 reviews221 followers
September 27, 2020
Fue una pequeña decepción para mi. Me esperaba un Ripley mejor planteado. Sé que hay muchos lectores enamorados de este personaje, pero a mi no me aportó mucho.
Fue una lectura entretenida, pero, en general, me pongo nervioso cuando veo que un personaje improvisa todo el tiempo y que no hay un objetivo concreto más que aguantar la mentira hasta el último segundo posible.

It was a little disappointment for me. I expected a better posed Ripley. I know there are many readers who are in love with this character, but he didn't contribute much to me.
It was an entertaining read, but in general, I get nervous when I see that a character improvises all the time and that there is no concrete objective other than to put up with the lie until the last possible second.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,105 followers
February 9, 2017
Honestly, I'm of two minds on this one.

The first is just how much fun I had running around with a trust fund buddy and the scam, enjoying 50's Italy, and especially the really delicious riffs from so many of the great authors doing their thing in the day, the subversion and the dark twist. I mean, we're all super-familiar with the heroic(anti-heroic) murderer protagonist, and some of us might be extremely familiar with it if they've read practically any mystery novels or watched ANY tv at all... but here it is, one of the first to really start the very popular modern mystery trend from the PoV of the sympathetic murderers. We'll ignore how much we love Richard the Third or the long line of True Crime novels or the Penny Dreadfuls, for now. This is the world of anti-hero worship, after all, thank you Dexter and Darth Vader. :)

So yeah, I had a really good time with this. I remember watching the movie and have a great time with it, too, in the theater. Little did I know that I was missing out on great books, too. :) I'm making up for lost time. :) Mistaken identities, con games, great play-acting, opportunity, and, of course, seeing the bad guys win. What's not to love?

And so I go to my second mind.

Closet homosexuality. This novel, with so many others of the time including movies, always made the bad guys homosexuals. This is trope made tripe and it's as stale as it is insulting and almost entirely distasteful to modern readers, if it wasn't already so to people back then. I chose to read it as a buddy novel gone really wrong instead of thinly-veiled homosexuality, and I enjoyed it more, but the question still remains. I can write it off as a sign of the times or general ignorance or a cynical pandering to popular conceptions, or I can think again and be sad that such an otherwise interesting and cool novel should now be relegated to the back-shelf of history because of the implicit homophobia it exhibits, even if there was never an explicit hate comment.

I'm willing to be generous, though. One doesn't toss out decades of literature just because the societal norms of today has changed significantly from those of our grandparents or great grandparents. We twist our noses and complain of the stench, but we still enjoy what is GOOD about what we've just read. That's where I'm standing, anyway. :)
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,588 followers
October 16, 2020

I don't know how Patricia Highsmith did it. But she got me to root for a psychopathic murderer.

Tom Ripley is a smart, nondescript young man in his 20s barely scraping by in 1950s Manhattan. When the wealthy father of an acquaintance offers to pay him to go to Italy to convince his aspiring artist son to return to America, Tom can't believe his luck. An all expenses paid trip to Europe? To hang out on beaches, drink cocktails and visit galleries? Si!

Alas, things don't go as planned. The son, Richard (or Dickie) Greenleaf, is happy with his life painting in a sun-drenched village on the Amalfi coast. He's also got a sort of relationship with another ex-pat, Marge Sherwood, and is perfectly content where he is. Soon Tom becomes obsessed with Dickie. He wants his life – the leisure, the trust fund, the nice clothes. Perhaps he even wants Dickie himself.

So some bad things happen. Tom – who's got a gift for impersonation and improvisation – covers them up. But one lie begets another, and another. Soon other bad things happen. And then people start investigating: Marge, Italian police officers, Dickie's father, an American detective...

Can the resourceful Tom not only cover his tracks but stay a step ahead of everyone?

Anyone who's seen the Anthony Minghella movie starring Matt Damon (as Tom), Jude Law (Dickie) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Marge) knows the answer, of course. (The film introduced another major character not in the book.) Also, this is the first of five Ripley books, so you know he survives to go on to other adventures.

But Highsmith is such a good writer that she keeps you constantly on edge. She also fills in Tom's backstory so you sympathize with him. His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by a cold, judgemental aunt. He was never the popular kid, always an outsider. Doesn't he deserve some happiness? True friendship? Love? Who among us hasn't envied – and perhaps resented – the beautiful and privileged one-percent?

What's fascinating to a contemporary reader is how submerged Tom's same-sex desires are. I'm not sure what a typical 1950s reader would have thought, but it's pretty clear that he's in love with Dickie; Highsmith, who wrote the ahead-of-its-time classic lesbian novel Carol under a pen name, depicts both men's private lives in a suggestive, tantalizing way that was probably clear in its implications to queer readers at the time.

It's also amusing to think how a modern-day Tom Ripley would flourish in the digital world. Imagine what he could discover about people through Instagram and Google.

Repressed desires; elegant clothes; lavish European settings (including Rome, the Cote d'Azur, Naples and Venice); shakers full of martinis; plus a murder or two and a generous helping of guilt – what's not to love?

A classic novel that shouldn't be relegated to genre fiction.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,185 followers
March 10, 2021
There is something darkly hilarious about Tom Ripley’s first “adventure”; I would not want to spoil it for anyone, but this slippery sociopath manages to be both detestable and yet, you can’t help but root for the slimy bugger…

Tom Ripley makes his living in 1950s Manhattan by being a small-time conman – who clearly struggles with a lot of repressed psycho-sexual issues (I wonder how this was perceived at publication time: knowing what we know about Patricia Highsmith makes this aspect of the character weirdly fascinating). He is the first to be surprised when an acquaintance’s father reaches out to him: would Tom be willing to go to Italy and try to talk some sense into the wayward Dickie Greenleaf, and bring him back home so he can take over the family business? At first, this just seems like a convenient way for Tom to ditch New York for the Europe he has been dreaming about most of his life. But that is until he meets Dickie, as the golden boy is everything Tom has ever wanted to be: rich, confident, independent. At the beginning, Tom decides to simply befriend Dickie and eventually tell him the actual purpose of his trip to Italy, but this very quickly blooms into an obsession and a desire not simply to be with Dickie, but to become Dickie…

Patricia Highsmith didn’t really create a likable anti-hero here – or at least, not one that I liked (come to think of it, I didn’t like any of the characters in this book). But it is fascinating to read this fast-paced little book and watch Tom wiggle himself in and out of the tightest binds, keeping a few steps ahead of those who would be suspicious of him and somehow, prevail. The paranoia is palpable in the prose, and the convoluted yet very well weaved plot makes it a hard book to put down.

I dimly remember the Anthony Minghella movie, mostly because I thought the photography was amazing, and a few elements had stuck in my mind; I was a touch disappointed not to find them in the book, but there is still something to be said for a novel that keeps you on the edge of your chair even when you dislike the main character so much! I mentioned the funny aspect of this story, and it really peaks at the very end, as if the whole story was a prank Patricia Highsmith had pulled on her readers. This last twist actually makes me want to read the rest of Tom’s adventures, and see what other ridiculous scrapes he gets himself into.

3 and a half stars, rounded up.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,494 reviews2,377 followers
November 16, 2021

Probably not since Lolita's Humbert Humbert have I come across a central character that was so morally corrupt and yet so easy to empathize with, and even like. The one big difference though between Nabokov's pedo and Highsmith's Tom Ripley was that I actually found myself cheering on the latter; in all his cunning and murderous ways.

Sorry Dickie, I know you love jazz and all, so are a man after my own heart, but you simply had to go. Freddie too. (In regards to Freddie I couldn't stand him so good riddance there)
Seeing Marge being mentally pulled all over the place was great too, and it wouldn't have surprised me if she ended up floating face down in the Venice Grand Canal.

One thing I wasn't expecting, considering this is a novel from the 1950s, was the level of homoeroticism boiling up underneath everything. The Last third in particular was terrific, where I thought for a while, despite Tom always being one step ahead, that he just took too many risks and was done for. But the crafty devil just wasn't having any of it!, and sometimes the bad guy simply gets away with it. I almost felt like punching the air in relief and joyous rapture at the end.

Christ, that makes me sound terrible!

I literally can't remember whether I watched the film back in the late 90s or not, so that helped in keeping me on my toes as I really didn't know what was coming.

Yes, I'll absolutely be reading Highsmith again, and thanks to the friends that put her in the shop window for me. At times the suspense and social manipulation was as tight as a pair of small cycle shorts being worn by Kim Kardashian.

Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,415 followers
December 28, 2017
When the 1999 film adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley was released, I remember reading a lengthy magazine article that discussed all the things about the book that were changed for the movie. I don't remember now what any of those changes were, but I do remember that I came away from the article thinking the book didn't sound very good. Thus, even though I had a copy of it, I avoided reading it for years and years. In 2017 it finally occurred to me that the book wouldn't have the staying power it does if there weren't something to it. I finally gave it a try and was amazed by how absorbing it was. The Talented Mr. Ripley is like an elaborate puzzle that Tom Ripley is constantly working, figuring out how to get himself into and out of treacherous situations entirely of his own making. While he's obviously some kind of psychopath, Ripley is also oddly sympathetic; Highsmith delves into his past and his psyche just enough to help the reader understand him, but thankfully without crossing over into sentimentality. It's a fantastic portrait, and I rooted for him the whole way through despite his pileup of bad deeds and appalling rationalizations. I truly loved every minute of this and was sorry when it was over. This isn't the kind of book I'm generally compelled to reach for, and I doubt I'll read any of the sequels. But I recognize perfection when I see it, and for what it sets out to do, The Talented Mr. Ripley is just about perfect.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews856 followers
January 7, 2023
What do Dr. Seuss, Vladimir Nabokov and Patricia Highsmith have in common? Each are 20th century authors with the finesse to make repellent fictional protagonists compelling, so compelling, we root for them to get away with it all. Most of us have heard of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Lolita. Let's talk about The Talented Mr. Ripley. Published in 1955, this thriller is the account of Tom Ripley, who by all appearances is an American gentleman in Italy. Having graduated from loathing to mail fraud to murder, Ripley spends much of the novel on the run from Johnny Law. Highsmith enlists us as accessories in his criminal career.

Tom Ripley is introduced at a bar on Fifth Avenue where he becomes aware that a man is watching him. Expecting police to grab him for some crime or series of crimes, he flees to another bar, where the man follows and confronts him. The man introduces himself as the father of Richard Greenleaf. He has it on authority that Tom is friends with his son "Dickie," who has relocated to Italy to live the life of a painter. Dickie has refused to return home to take over the family shipping business. Tom protests that he doesn't know Dickie well and hasn't spoken to him in years, but when Mr. Greenleaf, Sr., offers to pay his expenses to travel to Europe and compel Dickie to return, Tom accepts.

Ripley has had it with New York. One part of it is a mail fraud scheme he's running, phoning writers and artists he considers poor with figures and conning them into writing him checks for unpaid taxes. Tom hasn't gone as far as cash any of the checks he's received as "George McAlpin" but expects a knock from the IRS any time. Though he boasts of many talents--accounting, valeting, baby-sitting, performing a night club act, flying a helicopter--Tom can't hold a job. His surviving relative is an aunt who condescends his perceived fussiness. Nearly all of his "friends" in New York are thoroughly unacceptable to him.

It was after midnight when Tom started home. Mr. Greenleaf had offered to drop him off in a taxi, but Tom had not wanted him to see where he lived--in a dingy brownstone between Third and Second with a ROOMS TO LET sign hanging out. For the last two and a half weeks Tom had been living with Bob Delancey, a young man he hardly knew, but Bob had been the only one of Tom's friends and acquaintances in New York who had volunteered to put him up when he had been without a place to stay. Tom had not asked any of his friends up to Bob's, and had not even told anybody where he was living. The main advantage of Bob's place was that he could get his George McAlpin mail there with the minimum chance of detection. But the smelly john down the hall that didn't lock, that grimy single room that looked as if it had been lived in by a thousand different people who had left behind their particular kind of filth and never lifted a hand to clean it, those slithering stacks of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and those big chi-chi smoked-glass bowls all over the place, filled with tangles of string and pencils and cigarette butts and decaying fruit! Bob was a freelance window decorator for shops and department stores, but now the only work he did was occasional jobs for Third Avenue antique shops, and some antique shop had given him the smoked-glass-bowls as payment for something. Tom had been shocked at the sordidness of the place, shocked that he even knew anybody who lived like that, but he had known that he wouldn't live there very long. And now Mr. Greenleaf had turned up. Something always turned up. That was Tom's philosophy.

Tom overcomes his fear of water--his parents drowned together in Boston Harbor--to accept passage to Europe aboard a ship. Except for the fact that the first-class library does not carry a copy of Henry James' The Ambassadors, Tom is impressed by the provisions of the Cunnard Line. He remains civil but aloof from the other passengers, adopting the identity of a serious young man with a serious job ahead of him. He arrives by rail in Naples and takes a bus to his destination, the Italian resort of "Mongibello." Overwhelmed by everything from the language to the proper seasonal attire, Tom heads to the beach where he spots Richard Greenleaf immediately.

Dickie doesn't remember him, but Tom name drops enough mutual acquaintances and relies on a letter of introduction from his father to ingratiate himself to Dickie's hospitality. Dickie's American friend in Mongibello is Marge Sherwood, a writer working on a book about the town. Tom is not impressed with her. Once he gets his bearings, Tom confides to Dickie that his parents would like him to return home, but it's apparent to Tom how much more stylish living abroad is. His mission becomes making Dickie like him. He gathers that Marge is fond of Dickie--much more than he is of her--and as Tom moves in to Dickie's life and even his home, she grows chilly to his presence.

Once the boys return from a wild trip to Rome, Marge not only asserts that she's being neglected, but that Tom is taking advantage of Dickie. She also confides her suspicion that Tom is a homosexual. Suddenly, Tom finds himself featured in fewer of Dickie's travel plans. The two are no longer as tight as they briefly were, arguing over nothing. Dickie catches Tom in his bedroom, trying on his wardrobe. Venturing by train to the coastal town of San Remo for what to Tom feels like is their last hurrah together, enduring what he feels is insult after insult for all he's done for Dickie, Tom entertains some wild ideas.

Dickie said absolutely nothing on the train. Under a pretense of being sleepy, he folded his arms and closed his eyes. Tom sat opposite him, staring at his bony, arrogant, handsome face, at his hands with the green ring and the gold signet ring. It crossed Tom's mind to steal the green ring when he left. It would be easy: Dickie took if off when he swam. Sometimes he took it off even when he showered at the house. He would do it the very last day, Tom thought. Tom stared at Dickie's closed eyelids. A crazy emotion of hate, of affection, of impatience and frustration were swelling in him, hampering his breathing. He wanted to kill Dickie. It was not the first time he had thought of it. Before, once or twice or three times, it had been impulse caused by anger or disappointment, an impulse that vanished immediately and left him with a feeling of shame. Now he thought about it for an entire minute, two minutes, because he was leaving Dickie anyway, and what was there to be ashamed of anymore? He had failed with Dickie, in every way. He hated Dickie, because, however he looked at what had happened, his failing had not been his own fault, not due to anything he had done, but due to Dickie's inhuman stubbornness. And his blatant rudeness! He had offered Dickie friendship, companionship, and respect, everything he had to offer, and Dickie had replied with ingratitude and now hostility. Dickie was just shoving him out in the cold. If he killed him on this trip, Tom thought, he could simply say that some accident had happened. He could--He had just thought of something brilliant: he could become Dickie Greenleaf himself. He could do everything that Dickie did. He could go back to Mongibello first and collect Dickie's things, tell Marge any damned srory, set up an apartment in Rome or Paris, receive Dickie's check every month and forge Dickie's signature on it. He could step right into Dickie's shoes. He could have Mr. Greenleaf, Sr., eating out of his hand. The danger of it which he vaguely realized, only made him more enthusiastic. He began to think of how.

Like the Grinch or Humbert Humbert, Tom Ripley has no socially redeeming value. He can play a human being, but is irritated by most people he comes into contact with. There's no employer he can tolerate for any amount of time, no living situation that meets his standards. Traveling abroad seems like an opportunity to reinvent himself and become a man of importance. Despite his long list of talents, namely the ability to mirror others and tell them exactly what they want to hear, he's dependent on their gullibility to finance his adventures, coming away even more disgusted by the human race. I was fascinated by this creature. His rants are memorable.

Marge was in a giddy mood that irritated Tom throughout their long five-course dinner, but he made the supreme effort and responded in kind--like a helpless frog twitching from an electric needle, he thought--and when she dropped the ball, he picked it up and dribbled it for a while. He said things like, "Maybe Dickie's suddenly found himself in his painting, and he's gone away like Gaugin to one of the South Sea Islands." It made him ill. Then Marge would spin a fantasy about Dickie and the South Sea Islands, making lazy gestures with her hands. The worst was yet to come, Tom thought: the gondola ride. If she dangled those hands in the water, he hoped a shark bit them off. He ordered a dessert that he hadn't room for, but Marge ate it.

Much of The Talented Mr. Ripley deals with Tom monitoring newspaper coverage of his crimes, navigating his relationship with Marge and Mr. Greenleaf as they enlist his help finding Dickie, and dreading a knock from the police. It's a feral existence for a man who holds himself so superior to others. The suspense is superb. The descriptions of Italy from Ripley's fanciful point of view are colorful. The feel of the novel is gleefully sinister, which is something I think the film version starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow missed entirely, focusing on Ripley's ambiguity to excruciating levels of boredom rather than what a fabulous degenerate he is.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
August 28, 2023
I loved the Matt Damon/Jude Law film based on this book, have seen it 2-3 times, but until now I had never read the book, and I found it amazing. Deliciously wicked first person account of a psychopath, Tom Ripley, whom we know from the first is an arrogant fraud, fleeing creditors and the cops until he is invited by a rich lawyer, a Mr. Greenleaf, to travel to Italy to talk his trust-funded son Richard--Dickie--into returning to America.

“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.”

I know Highsmith, like her protagonist, was a (necessarily, given the fifties), closeted gay person who hated most people, including herself. It occurred to me in reading this book, and building on what I just read in Highsmith’s Carol, that someone who was gay in the fifties had to “pass” as straight, had to perform a double life, and Tom Ripley is doing just that as a fraud, lying his way through life. In this story he lies and cheats everyone he meets and despises, except Dickie Greenberg, whom he adores and wants to be like. He studies Dickie and wants to be him, dress like him, talk like him, all of it. But he can’t be him, as much as he tries. But he does try.

Ripley--believe it or not, get it? And you may claim you wouldn’t, but most people do eventually believe him--loves Europe, wants it all:

“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.”

As with many noir anti-heroes (and some of us?), Tom is a working-class guy who wants the trappings of wealth. He must have money to travel and buy the best meals, stay at the best hotels, and see all of the beauties and majestic sights and museums of Europe. But he has no obvious talents to do anything beyond his powers to lie and deceive and defraud. What’s his trick?

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

But Ripley has to do more than that just act; he has to believe what he says:

“His stories were good because he imagined them intensely, so intensely that he came to believe them.”

I said when I read The Price of Salt/Carol, that that was her best book, but this is even better, really, just wickedly seductive, probably her very best. It reminded me of Nabokov’s wicked Humbert Humbert, who is evil but lures us in, nevertheless. He continues to defraud us even as we realize he is defrauding us. As Alison Bechdel said about Highsmith's protagonists, she even gets us to sort of root for the villain. Now that is a wicked talent in a writer. I was reminded, too, of Henry James in his writing of Americans abroad, only with a twist. Highly recommended, then watch or re-watch the film.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,720 followers
January 23, 2015
This classic novel of suspense lives up to the hype. I was familiar with the story of Tom Ripley because I had seen the Matt Damon movie, and the book was just as good as other readers had promised.

Ripley is skilled at manipulating people, lying, impersonations, con jobs and feigning interest in others. What terrifies him is 1) getting caught and 2) being himself. It's a classic case of someone who feels arrogant and snide toward others but who also hates himself and feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere, unless he's impersonating someone else.

In this first book in the Ripley series, he takes on the identity of Richard "Dickie" Greenleaf, who is a wealthy young man living in Italy. After living Dickie's life for several months, Ripley realizes he can't keep up the charade anymore because the police are looking for Dickie, and Tom has to revert to being himself again.

"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."

I looked up what else Patricia Highsmith wrote and discovered that she wrote the novel that the Hitchcock movie "Strangers on a Train" was based on. Clearly I need to read more Patricia Highsmith.
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