The Talented Mr. Ripley

The white, taut sheets of his berth on the train seemed the most wonderful luxury he had ever known. He caressed them with his hands before he turned the light out. And the clean blue-grey blankets, the spanking efficiency of the little black net over his head – Tom had an ecstatic moment when he thought of all the pleasures that lay before him now with Dickie’s money, other beds, tables, seas, ships, suitcases, shirts, years of freedom, years of pleasure. Then he turned the light out and put his head down and almost at once fell asleep, happy, content, and utterly, utterly confident, as he had never been before in his life.

I gotta tell you, that would not be my immediate reaction after doing what Thomas Ripley had done. No, sirree, if I’d thrown a man overboard after smashing him on the head with an oar, and stealing his identity, I would not be experiencing a happy, content, and utterly confident sleep.

It is therefore with wonder that I continued on in this novel. Like watching a slow motion train wreck, I grappled with my fascination in the plot and my horror at Tom’s behavior. How can he possibly think he will get away with it? How can he manage the deception long term? How can he tolerate the guilt?

But, when I came to this part, it made a tiny bit of sense:

He went on packing. 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, a grease-spotted, unpressed suit of clothes that had not been very good even when it was new.

That gets me thinking. For haven’t you hated something about yourself at least once? Haven’t you wished there was something about yourself you could change? If you had the chance, would you swap identities with someone else? Would you leave New York for Rome? (The later? I would in a heartbeat!)

None of us would kill another. But, the idea of abandoning one’s identity, in one way or another, is a little compelling to me. It makes me grasp just how talented, albeit psychotic, Mr. Ripley is.

Find another review from Richard, who was the first person to make me want to read this novel which I did for my own personal pleasure as well as Carl‘s RIP V.

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16 thoughts on “The Talented Mr. Ripley”

  1. Patricia Highsmith was a master. No doubt about it. But I've not read this one, nor seen the movie. Think one of those is going to change. Excellent review, Bellezza!

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  2. Yes, I've certainly wanted to be someone else a few times. Begin anew. I'm remember of Ladder Years by Anne Tyler. A woman who ran away from her family.I read The Talented Mr. Riply last year. I enjoyed it. Mesmerized me in his manner and ability to transform into what he needed. I rented the movie after. The "talent" didn't transfer quite as effectively. Figures – the book is better.

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  3. Money may not bring happiness, but it seems to bring Mr. Ripley confidence. From your excellent review, it sounds quite fascinating, in a similar way to darker, contemporary Japanese literature, such as Out.

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  4. Excellent review! You've convinced me that I need to read this and then watch the movie a second time. Might be fun for a book club selection. Thanks, Bellezza!

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  5. mmm, I can relate to the fantasy of an alternate identify sometimes. And I like Suko's comment about confidence – I think my alternate identity would only differ in the amount of confidence I had. Sounds like an interesting story. I remember the TV show Ripleys Believe it or not? – is that based on this??

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  6. I agree- this book is squeamish, but Tom is still a likeable character (in my head, perhaps influenced by the movie- Matt Damon played him so well). But it would be so nice to be someone completely different at least for a little while!

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  7. Fine review, Bellezza! I think you do a great job at drawing out how Highsmith makes Ripley a monster and yet understandable in some ways in more or less equal proportions. Quite the highwire act, that!

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  8. Patricia Highsmith really reaches into the human mind and writes about things that make us uncomfortable. Although Ripley is a murderer, she makes us understand where his ugly thoughts stem from. I loved this book (and the movie as well, although I wasn't so sure about Matt Damon as Ripley.)

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  9. It seems to me that Matt Damon is better suited for Sesame Street sometimes…I have a hard time taking these 'younger' actors seriously. Except for Johnny Depp. Whom I greatly admire.

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  10. I watched the film years ago and was quite fascinated by it. I like the quotes you gave us above. I'm sure I'll read the book one day. Your review just gave me the confirmation!

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  11. I saw the movie and I loved it so much that I am really half-afraid to read the book. I always had the feeling it would be a let-down.Now that you are seeing the movie as well, I can't wait to read your thoughts on it vis-a-vis the book!

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