Ripley talented or twisted

Ripley - talented or twisted?

Book Cover Of The Talented Mr Ripley By Patricia Highsmith

Audio version

Book Cover Of The Talented Mr Ripley By Patricia HighsmithIf you subscribe to Netflix you may have seen the new series of Ripley based on the book by Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr Ripley. The new series is drawn out to 8 episodes which you would think was way too long but it is so perfectly paced and atmospheric that it doesn’t seem too much. Who would have thought that the Amalfi coast would film so beautifully in black and white too! We associate Italy with vibrant colours and scenery yet here in monochrome we can still appreciate the beauty and feel of the country. The book is set in the late 1950’s and the cinematography suits the era with the attention to detail, the use of light on staircases and through windows all adding to the perfect feel of the series. Andrew Scott’s portrayal of Tom Ridley is also perfectly nuanced with that dead pan look of his hiding the complicated and twisted mind that lies beneath.

A monochrome photo of the Amalfi CoastThat said, he is a bit too old for the Ripley of the books, and those looking for criticism will find it as there are obvious differences to the narrative of the novel. This is a thriller though. A truly psychological thriller that enthrals even if you have read the book first. Ripley himself is captivating in an odd way. The murders are messy (even in black and white!), almost as careless as they are coldly calculated, with his attempts to dispose of the rowing boat, for example, almost comic. But we are anxious to find out what happens next, following him from the coast, to Naples and then on to Rome and Venice leaving behind a trail of evidence to be discovered by the Italian detective superbly played by Maurizio Lombardi.

The advantage of the book over the series is that we get to understand better the inner turmoil going on in Tom’s head. At times he is just one step ahead of the Italian police as they search for the missing Dickie Greenleaf and one false turn would lead to his deceptions being uncovered. Tom lives on his wits as he always has but now the stakes are higher and as a reader we can admire his manipulation of the situation whilst also being aghast at what he gets away with. It’s hard to say where our sympathies lie even with all the lies and half truths that come out of his mouth. It’s not that he’s a charismatic character but we really don’t want him to get his comeuppance and I found myself routing for him as the police circle.

To say more would be to spoil the story for anyone not already acquainted with it- suffice to say it is as enthralling a read as it is a tv series.

Patricia Highsmith is renowned for her writing – both novels and short stories. Strangers on a Train, her first novel, was made into a famous film by Alfred Hitchcock. She herself was a complex, unconventional character, who included much of herself in her writing. The complexities of the plots in her novels coupled with the daring concepts and sociopathic characters she creates suggest that she was herself a complicated person.

Ripley, described as an anti-hero, is her best known character – and one which I do not really think of fondly but with grudging admiration. 

If you get a chance I would advise to read it before watching it -you will get to appreciate the full experience of The Talented Mr Ripley in the full technicolour of your own mind’s eye.


Patricia Highsmith novels

Ripley novels

Book covers of four titles by Patricia Highsmith

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