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Patricia Highsmith's noir novel from the 1950s, The Talented Mr. Ripley, first of several Ripley-related novels, had new life breathed into it by the release this past year of the Matt Damon/Jude Law vehicle in the cinema. Unfortunately for Highsmith, the theatrical release is merely a 'based-upon', for the characters and the events do turn out to be different in the novel.
The basic plot is this. Henry Greenleaf, upset that his son Richard (Dickie) has abandoned responsibility in life to live a life of decadence in Italy, hires Tom Ripley to go and persuade Dickie to return to America. Ripley, being down on his luck, sees this as the opportunity for travel and some ease, at least for a while. He agrees (somewhat under false pretenses) and meets up with Dickie and his friend Marge in Mongibello.
Eventually, Tom comes to appreciate the lifestyle (to which has become accustomed) more than his desire to complete his mission, and begins with Dickie's help to conspire to continue the cash flow from Greenleaf, Sr. while Dickie has no intentions of returning to America.
Marge and Dickie's other friend, Freddie, don't entirely like the distraction of Tom, as all seem to be competing for the always-short-attention-span of Dickie. Dickie in the end is easily bored, and not entirely trusting of the intentions of Tom's interest--did it go to more than mere friendship? Marge suspected it. Dickie let Tom know that.
Tom in the end decides to kill Dickie, and take his place. It would be simple, Tom thinks. If only one can figure out how to accomplish the murder. Tom kills Dickie in a boat, disposes of the body overboard, and simply steps into his shoes. As Dickie had the habit of ignoring people and travelling alone for lengths of time, he kept up a correspondence and double-life as Ripley and Greenleaf, but soon the search is on, particularly after Freddie is also murdered, and his body is discovered. The police want to interview Greenleaf for the murder, and in fact the same detective interviews Tom as Ripley and as Greenleaf at different times, and Tom's impersonation is sufficient to carry off the masquerade.
Through a series of near-misses, he finally convinces all that Dickie has either disappeared intentionally or committed suicide, perhaps out of guilt of Freddie Miles' murder. Marge buys into the lie, as do the Greenleaf, Srs., who comply with the final wishes of Dickie's will, and hand all of his money over to Tom.
Very different from the movie in many respects. This novel being a product of the 1950s, the idea of a homosexual orientation both had to be masked and had to be sinister. This is true of the novel, a little less so in the film. In the film, Tom has intentions of impersonating Dickie from the outset, which is not true in the book. In the film, Tom commits a murder aboard ship of someone with whom he has fallen in love; this is not true in the book. In the film, Marge suspects to the end that Tom is guilty of disposing of Dickie; this is not true in the book.
Thus, I hope I am proving the point that you must read the book. The character development is much more interesting and complete (and somewhat different) than the film's exposition. This book is very much a product of the 1950s, and in what is really a classic mystery novel, Highsmith has produced a character as chilling a sociopath as any modern serial killer, made the more sinister by the way in which we get drawn in to his actions and motivations almost willingly.
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Patricia Highsmith's noir novel from the 1950s, The Talented Mr. Ripley, first of several Ripley-related novels, had new life breathed into it by the release this past year of the Matt Damon/Jude Law vehicle in the cinema. Unfortunately for Highsmith, the theatrical release is merely a 'based-upon', for the characters and the events do turn out to be different in the novel.
The basic plot is this. Henry Greenleaf, upset that his son Richard (Dickie) has abandoned responsibility in life to live a life of decadence in Italy, hires Tom Ripley to go and persuade Dickie to return to America. Ripley, being down on his luck, sees this as the opportunity for travel and some ease, at least for a while. He agrees (somewhat under false pretenses) and meets up with Dickie and his friend Marge in Mongibello.
Eventually, Tom comes to appreciate the lifestyle (to which has become accustomed) more than his desire to complete his mission, and begins with Dickie's help to conspire to continue the cash flow from Greenleaf, Sr. while Dickie has no intentions of returning to America.
Marge and Dickie's other friend, Freddie, don't entirely like the distraction of Tom, as all seem to be competing for the always-short-attention-span of Dickie. Dickie in the end is easily bored, and not entirely trusting of the intentions of Tom's interest--did it go to more than mere friendship? Marge suspected it. Dickie let Tom know that.
Tom in the end decides to kill Dickie, and take his place. It would be simple, Tom thinks. If only one can figure out how to accomplish the murder. Tom kills Dickie in a boat, disposes of the body overboard, and simply steps into his shoes. As Dickie had the habit of ignoring people and travelling alone for lengths of time, he kept up a correspondence and double-life as Ripley and Greenleaf, but soon the search is on, particularly after Freddie is also murdered, and his body is discovered. The police want to interview Greenleaf for the murder, and in fact the same detective interviews Tom as Ripley and as Greenleaf at different times, and Tom's impersonation is sufficient to carry off the masquerade.
Through a series of near-misses, he finally convinces all that Dickie has either disappeared intentionally or committed suicide, perhaps out of guilt of Freddie Miles' murder. Marge buys into the lie, as do the Greenleaf, Srs., who comply with the final wishes of Dickie's will, and hand all of his money over to Tom.
Very different from the movie in many respects. This novel being a product of the 1950s, the idea of a homosexual orientation both had to be masked and had to be sinister. This is true of the novel, a little less so in the film. In the film, Tom has intentions of impersonating Dickie from the outset, which is not true in the book. In the film, Tom commits a murder aboard ship of someone with whom he has fallen in love; this is not true in the book. In the film, Marge suspects to the end that Tom is guilty of disposing of Dickie; this is not true in the book.
Thus, I hope I am proving the point that you must read the book. The character development is much more interesting and complete (and somewhat different) than the film's exposition. This book is very much a product of the 1950s, and in what is really a classic mystery novel, Highsmith has produced a character as chilling a sociopath as any modern serial killer, made the more sinister by the way in which we get drawn in to his actions and motivations almost willingly.
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le 19 juin 2015
disturbing and entertaining story. i bought it upon someone's recommendation, though this sort of intrigue is not usually up my alley. a classic
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le 14 juillet 2014
Definitely a classic worth reading. By the way both film adaptations were superb in their own way. You understand why Patricia Highsmith was not terribly successful in her own day, and why her talent has come to be recognized over time.
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