A charming, obliging young man ready to turn a hand to any kind of work; a discerning art collector and bon viveur; a cold-blooded killer – Tom Ripley is many things to many people. First published in 1955, The Talented Mr Ripley introduced one of the 20th century’s most memorable and chilling fictional creations. As Ripley progresses from downtrodden youth to wealthy, epicurean murderer, we recoil at his crimes yet, somehow, find ourselves willing him to succeed. When writing The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith said that she was ‘showing the unequivocal triumph of evil over good, and rejoicing in it. I shall make my readers rejoice in it, too.’ Now The Folio Society presents 3 classic Ripley novels - The Talented Mr Ripley, Ripley Under Ground and Ripley's Game - together in a superbly illustrated set.
The Talented Mr Ripley
New York in the 1950s. Tom Ripley is struggling to stay afloat, financially and socially. Having failed at several jobs, he is dabbling in small-time fraud and living on charity from acquaintances. One day, fate causes his path to cross with that of the shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf, who begs him to travel to Italy to persuade his errant son Dickie to come home. Tom feigns reluctance but goes eagerly, building his slight acquaintance with Dickie into a close friendship. Dickie’s lifestyle proves irresistible and, when the friendship sours, Tom embarks on a path from which there is no going back. Made into an acclaimed film in 1999, this first Ripley story is a harrowing and thrilling story of unpunished crime.
Ripley Under Ground
Three years later, Tom Ripley has achieved wealth and status beyond his wildest dreams. He is the owner of a beautiful estate in France, a wealthy collectorof art and married to an heiress. He is also involved in an art racket, dealing paintings supposedly by the ‘reclusive’ artist Derwatt – who is in fact dead. Threatened with exposure, Tom turns first to impersonation and then to murder. Ripley Under Ground is an ingenious story of masks and fake identity, illusion and reality. As critic Michael Durda writes: ‘In this counterfeit world only Tom thrives, for he alone recognises that there is no distinction that matters between what is real and what is only apparently real.’
One of Tom’s more unsavoury associates, Reeves Minot, needs a favour: ‘two simple murders and perhaps one theft’. Tom is unwilling to get his own hands dirty, but finds himself thinking of an English neighbour of his called Jonathan Trevanny, who was rude to him at a party. Out of malice, Tom suggests that since Trevanny is dying of leukaemia and has a family to support, he might carry out the murders. Much to Tom’s surprise, Trevanny agrees. He becomes Tom’s apprentice on a mission that will lead them both from Fontainebleau to a deadly assignation in Munich. In tracing the gradual corruption of a respectable man, Patricia Highsmith leaves the reader wondering whether any one of us, if the circumstances conspired, could become a Ripley.
This new Folio set features a superb introduction by Man Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville, himself a brilliant creator of literary anti-heroes. Banville traces Patricia Highsmith’s influences from Oscar Wilde and Dostoevsky to Albert Camus’s The Outsider. He also notes how closely Highsmith identified herself with her own creation. ‘Almost all her friends commented on the intense and intimate manner with which she used to speak of him, as if he really were alive somewhere in the world.’
Tom Burns previously illustrated Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy for The Folio Society, for which he won a prestigious V&A Illustration Award. For these Ripley novels, he has used a mixture of collage and illustration, incorporating photographs and advertisements from the period in which each novel is set.
Review by patrickodaniel on 10th May 2012
"This set is another FS triumph. The size of the volumes is just right and the overall design is faithful to the place and period meant to be evoked by Ms. Highsmith (i.e., sleek, post-war, European m..." [read more]