Review: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Posted by Keith Wallace

For those of you in a wine course, a great novel to dive into while blind tasting is Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Highsmith’s protagonist is the very sordid yet very likable Tom Ripley. As Highsmith takes her reader on a journey through his twisted mind, she also takes them through the heart and twisted countryside of Italy. Aside from Ripley’s travels to San Remo, Rome, and Venice, Highsmith’s Italy is conspicuously fictional. No matter, as the rugged beauty of the Amalfi coast is easily conjured in the fictional village of Mongibello, where Tom Ripley is sent to fetch Herbert Greenleaf’s wayward son and bring him back to New York.

It is there that Tom meets Dickie Greenleaf and Marge Sherwood and quickly falls in love with the lifestyle of privilege the young wealthy Americans indulge in the Italy of the 1950s. However, Tom’s envy for Dickie grows in direct proportion to his dependence on him, and it is in San Remo where his and Dickie’s relationship takes a dark turn.

To say more would ruin an excellent read, and for those of you not willing to spend a few days with a book, you can check out these movies: Rene Clement’s excellent Purple Noon and Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Both films are based on Highsmith’s novel, but Alain Delon (Purple Noon), whom Highsmith herself felt portrayed Ripley as she wrote him.

And what better accompaniment to a gripping story set in Italy, rife with self-centered cruelty and decadence, unexpected twists and turns, than a delicious glass of Italian wine? Looking over the amazing wines on Frank’s Picks, going with the book seems the obvious choice as it will allow one more time to indulge in the wicked intrigue that is Tom Ripley and, better still, to drink some great wines.

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