The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Great story but Highsmith’s true brilliance shines in her creation of the most fearsome kind of monster in existence. The sociopath-turned-psycho is treacherous no doubt. Tom’s ability to illicit empathy from his victims AND readers (me at least) is beyond appalling. Part of Highsmith’s genius is her ability to somehow remain coolly detached from Tom. She never coddles his character and in fact throws enough his way to hinder his murderous progress. The story remains grounded in reality while the human chameleon and villain manages to narrowly escape a succession of traps. And I’m still surprised by my reaction as the suspense is ramped up and poor Tom seems destined for capture. It would be more logical to cheer for a great white closing in on human prey. But it’s obviously clear where the fault lies: Highsmith & Ripley are matchless up against any foe, regardless of how righteous their opposition might be.
Ultimately, the story revealed more to me about my own mind than the abyss substituting Ripley’s soul. And I’m a better person for reading that tale because I’m forced to ponder my own willingness to justify the indefensible. Simply put: I’m prepared for the real Ripleys of the world and will never forget that story or character.
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