The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Book description

It's here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a "sissy." Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy…


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Why read it?

12 authors picked The Talented Mr. Ripley as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This suspense novel is a leader in the field of deceptive protagonists. Ripley adapts another’s persona alongside his own, but even as he plays both roles he knows that it will all have to end at some point. He is aware of what he’s doing, yet this is coupled with great self-deception: ‘I’m a good person really.’ His vulnerability is shown in his fear of being judged. At heart he is a lonely man, driven by obsession and jealousy. Ripley is a complex, well-drawn character - I’d love to see his personality profile!

The Talented Mr. Ripley is Highsmith’s masterpiece. Tom Ripley is a deeply disturbed young man who operates in the world by imitating the people around him, but is missing any sense of moral responsibility for his actions. Somehow, Highsmith makes her readers care about him and hold their breath when circumstances close in on him. I recommend this book to any reader who wants an engrossing story that leaves her thinking about the mysteries of human nature, good and evil, playing out in quiet ways. 

This is a classic psychological thriller about a social climber, complete with murder and stolen identity. There's something about Tom Ripley, who fenagles his way into the upper-crust world of Dickie Greenleaf, son of a wealthy shipping magnate. Ripley is immoral and ruthless, but also needy and sad, a complicated character who evokes sympathy even as he does terrible things. This book asks the question: What if you could take the place of a person who has everything you ever dreamed of? Would you do it? And if you did, how would you keep from getting caught? 

From Joy's list on ruthless social climbers.

I think this book perfectly executes the task of having the main protagonist be somewhat a dubious and mildly despicable character yet intriguing and charming enough to make the reader want to stick with him. There’s a good reason the book spawned several sequels and a few film adaptations. Tom Ripley is quite the con artist and murderer, able to elude being captured numerous times. In this first book of the series, we get a fair understanding of what drives him and what may have made him the way he is. 

Tom Ripley is a con artiste. He is smooth, intelligent, and deadly. Tom goes on a journey to Italy to find the wayward son of a shipping magnate, Dickie Greenleaf. Along the way, Tom finds a way to become Dickie Greenleaf himself. The adventure plays out in some of the most scenic parts of Italy, following Tom on his misadventures in Positano, Rome, and Venice. Patricia Highsmith writes in a formal style that ages well and keeps the reader hooked with the wonderfully narrated prose.

This book taught me that villains can be compelling protagonists. It is a wonderful portrait of an amoral aspirational underdog who, through the ability to mimic the pretensions and manners of the wealthy, successfully cheats his way into the persona of his obsession, after murdering him. And, despite the fact he lacks empathy, he is fascinating, his motive, even more disturbing, relatable. Highsmith taught me the importance of the back-story of characters to understand them psychologically. Once you have established that, you can take the reader anywhere and this book does. Part of the fascination and tension is reading how…

The now (in)famous confidence man Tom Ripley debuts in this classic. Talk about an underdog and a survivor—the aspiring Ripley so desperately wants to become someone he’s not that he will do anything, murder even, to reinvent himself again and again. He’ll even assume another’s personality and own it when all seems lost. He’s one of the original bad boys whom you want to follow despite their bad deeds, and why is that? It’s because Ripley never gives up, even when he has no clue what’s next. 

From Steve's list on underdogs on a doomed mission.

You can’t talk about deception and double lives without talking about the charming con artist and serial killer, Tom Ripley. It’s the first of six novels Highsmith wrote with Ripley as the protagonist. Read the book and watch the brilliant Anthony Minghella’s eponymous film starring Matt Damon as Ripley. (There’s also a great French version, Purple Noon, from 1960, with Alain Delon). 

The scoundrel that gets destroyed in this novel is not the biggest scoundrel in the novel, but I still find the death of Dickie Greenleaf, a smug, spoiled, rich, fickle brat of a man, more entertaining than tragic. Maybe that says something awful about me, or maybe it just shows you how good Highsmith is at generating audience sympathy for scheming con artist and identity thief Tom Ripley.

Dickie spends the book avoiding responsibility, on perpetual holiday in Greece, relishing at being the center of his friends’ attention and devotion. That is, until he realizes that Tom is obsessed with…

From Benji's list on that destroy some devious scoundrel.

Another novel that redefined crime fiction for me in my 20s. People now know Tom Ripley through Matt Damon’s character, sure, but that’s not really Ripley. He’s slipperier, more charming, asexual, and utterly amoral. There’s very little mystery here; the only mystery is just how far Ripley will go to get what he wants. How many people will he kill? And why on earth are we rooting for him? This novel showed me how a talented author can manipulate the reader's emotions to root for the bad guy. Only in the past decade or so have we begun to understand…

From Neal's list on psycho killers.

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