meilufay’s #CBR4 review #73 The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
First of all, forget 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley. Matt Damon once said that he wished that they could remake the film with the same cast and title but actually make it like the novel. Because in its feverish attempt to be a pretty Oscar bait-y Hitchcock-referencing prestige film, the adaptation completely missed the opportunity to do what all great Hitchcock movies do: get under our skins and freak our shit out. Patricia Highsmith’s novel is intensely psychological and uncomfortably interior. One spends the entire book inside Ripley’s lonely, despairing, selfish head and it is not at all a happy place to be. One finds oneself almost sympathizing with Ripley’s choice to murder and then hoping that he gets away with it. Highsmith’s works are placed solidly within the crime fiction genre. They just reverse the script. Yes, the book is a procedural. But instead of detailing how a crime is solved, it shows the how the protagonist commits murder and then gets away with it. Broadly speaking, in a crime novel, a crime (usually murder) is committed, destabilizing the world of the story and the novel is satisfyingly concluded when the crime is solved and order restored to the world. Highsmith subverts the genre conventions and expectations by having order restored to the universe only when the murderer has gotten away with his crime. It makes for a tense, uncomfortable, reading experience. I have to say, I’m not particularly eager to read more Ripley books because they are very very dark but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that this is an absolutely masterful novel, brilliantly written.