The Talented Mr. Ripley


Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith has been called a master of the psychological thriller. Her character Tom Ripley is as well.

Highsmith was the Edgar-award winning author of Strangers on A Train and The Price of Salt, recently adapted into the film Carol. Tom Ripley, introduced to the world in The Talented Mr. Ripley may have been her greatest invention: a psychopath with self-esteem issues who kills in cold blood, assumes the life of his victim, lives the high life in his victim’s clothes for a while — all the while holding the reader in thrall with some actual empathy for poor Tom’s predicament.

He remembered that right after that, he had stolen a loaf of bread from a delicatessen counter and had taken it home and devoured it, feeling that the world owed a loaf of bread to him, and more.

The Movie

Jude GwynethI had seen the Matt Damon-Gwyneth Paltrow-Jude Law film adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1999, and loved it. All those gorgeous retro costumes. Italian scenery. Jude Law in a bathing suit. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett and Anthony Minghella. It was nominated for five Academy awards and deservedly so. But I had not read Ms. Highsmith’s original work until recently.

The Book

And it is riveting. The Talented Mr. Ripley begins in New York with a decidedly untalented Tom Ripley running a series of minor cons in order to finance his woeful life. He’s out of a job, out of a home, out of friends. Until Herbert Greenleaf appears and begs Tom — as one of his son’s “dearest” friends — to travel to Europe, first class, on Herbert’s dime and convince son Dickie to come back home. It takes Tom all of about two seconds to jump on board and the next thing you know, he’s walking down the beach in fictional Mongibello (rendered on screen as the volcanic island of Ischia) having to introduce himself to an acquaintance who barely remembers him.


Alain Delon as Tom Ripley in the 1960 French adaptation, Plein Soleil

But Tom has decided to be the kind of guy who makes good things happen for himself. Whatever the cost.

There’s been a but of hubbub in my noon bookclub at the Carnegie Center Lexington recently about whether a book without a likable protagonist is a likable book. There have been loads of recent bestsellers whose less-than-likeable, ok . . . psychopathic . . . characters made them insatiable reads: Girl on A Train, Gone Girl. In a 2015 article, Sam Jordison of The Guardian takes on the topic by reexamining The Talented Mr. Ripley. When faced with a reader complaining of the lack of books with likable characters, Jordison suggests handing them a copy of the The Talented Mr. Ripley:

It is near impossible, I would say, not to root for Tom Ripley. Not to like him. Not, on some level, to want him to win. Patricia Highsmith does a fine job of ensuring he wheedles his way into our sympathies. It’s a classic story of someone who starts off down on his luck and disregarded, but who, through force of personality, hard work and sheer determination, manages to make something of himself. He’s had a hard upbringing. He lost his parents and was brought up by an aunt who called him a “sissy”. And yet, he came out the other end polite, self-effacing, hard working. He is endearingly shy in company and worried about the impression he makes on others. He is always assessing himself, always trying to improve.

And yet … eyeglasses_318-68634

He had appreciated Marc’s possessions, and they were  what had attracted him to the house, but they were not his own, and it had been impossible to make a beginning at acquiring anything of his own on forty dollars a week. It would have taken him the best years of his life, even if he had economised stringently, to buy the things he wanted. Dickie’s money had given him only an added momentum on the road he had been travelling. The money gave him the leisure to see Greece, to collect Etruscan pottery if he wanted (he had recently read an interesting book on that subject by an American living in Rome), to join art societies if he cared to and to donate to their work. It gave him the leisure, for instance, to read his Malraux tonight as late as he pleased, because he did not have to go to a job in the morning. He had just bought a two-volume edition of Malraux’s Psychologic de I’art which he was now reading, with great pleasure, in French with the aid of a dictionary.”

I truly enjoyed the time I spent in Mongibello with Dickie Greenleaf and his friend Marge and meeting their friends — and others. Your book club will enjoy it too. And there’s great Italian food to be culled. And lots and lots of Martinis.


Fresh greens simply dressed with good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper

Pasta with seafood. I would make linguine with white clam sauce because that’s my favorite. I buy the small cans of clams at the grocery store and use the recipe on the back but add white wine to the saute.



The setting of The Talented Mr. Ripley is reputed to be in the late 1950s though Highsmith throughout uses a date with the notation “19–,” leaving the question open. I tend to be influenced by the movie’s choice of music and would play:

Chet Baker

Charlie Parker

Miles Davis

Enjoy! Happy Reading!

Like what you’ve read? Check out my webpage:

Follow me here and at:

twitter @daeandwrite





A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


A Man Called Ove moved into a new neighborhood with his young wife. A man called Ove, though exceedingly competent in fixing things, engineering, building things, and choosing the perfect cars (Saab), was not socially-adept. A man called Ove was, in fact, a bit of a grump. Fredrik Backman’s charming novel A Man Called Ove invites us into house and car of Ove as he bumps and blusters along after losing his wife, Sonja.

Ove is 59 years old, a new widower and has just become redundant in his job. His one friend is also his primary enemy, chiefly because Ove drives Saabs and his friend, Rune, prefers Volvos. (“that time Rune drove a Volvo, but later he bought a BMW. You just couldn’t reason with a person who behaved like that.”) So Ove decides to make the obvious choice to kill himself. He puts on his best suit, gathers all the necessary papers in an envelope (bank statements, house mortgage, VCR instruction book), and installs a bolt in the ceiling from which to hang himself. All is set, he’s ready to go, until he notices a moving van backing down the pedestrian-only area of his street and crushing his mailbox. In Ove’s black and white world, even a suicide must be halted in order to deal with this high level of malfeasance.

“Ove stares silently at her for a few seconds. Then he turns to her husband, who’s just managed to extract himself from the Japanese car and is approaching them with two hands thrown expressively into the air and an apologetic smile plastered across his face. He’s wearing a knitted cardigan and his posture seems to indicate a very obvious calcium deficiency. He must be close to six and a half feet tall. Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.”

A man called Ove has a great many opinions, all of which are perfectly correct and none of which have the slightest chance of being swayed by anyone else’s misguided disagreement. He is certain that his plan to kill himself is the correct action to take, it’s just that he can’t seem to find the right time, what with his mailbox being run over, the neighbor falling off a ladder, the boy needing to fix a bicycle, and the men in the white shirts spreading over the neighborhood like a plague, ignoring the no-driving signs.

Before Ove knows it, he’s teaching driving lessons to an overly-pregnant Iranian woman, has adopted a cat, and has become a safe place for an at-risk teen.  cat

The cat, incidentally, is one of my favorite parts of this completely enjoyable read. The cat’s interpretation of events and self-expression are a hoot and a half.

“Ove stomped forward. The cat stood up. Ove stopped. They stood there measuring up to each other for a few moments, like two potential troublemakers in a small-town bar. Ove considered throwing one of his clogs at it. The cat looked as if it regretted not bringing its own clogs to lob back.”

Simon & Schuster provides a reading group guide that includes questions for your book club.

A Man Called Ove was written in Swedish and has been translated for the English-language market. There’s also a Swedish film: I’ve found a link to the trailer for the film, which gives you some feel for the character, but no English subtitles.

saabIn the vein of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, A Man Called Ove is an homage to a certain type of man who finds life changed, himself replaced, the world alien and doesn’t like it. Ove’s antics will charm you, make you laugh, and ultimately, shed a tear or two.

UPDATE: On September 30, 2016, the movie adaptation of A Man Called Ove will be in theaters. The film, in Swedish with English subtitles, has made the rounds of festivals and garnered several awards:

  • Winner – Audience Award, Best Actor (Rolf Lassgård), Best Make-Up (Love Larson & Eva Von Bahr) – Guldbagge Awards 2016
  • Opening Night Selection – Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 2016
  • Closing Night Selection – Stony Brook Film Festival 2016
  • Official Selection – Seattle International Film Festival 2016
  • Swedish star Rolf Lassgård, whose performance won him the Best Actor award at the 2016 Seattle Int’l Film Festival

I can’t wait to see this film adaptation of the wonderful novel!


Ove’s favorite meal is meat, potatoes and gravy. This may indicate meatballs, but that’s not the translation. Ove drinks black coffee, percolated, no fancy espressos for him, and takes a very rare drink of whiskey. My meal would be based on one bestowed on Ove by neighbor Parvaneh: jasmine rice and chicken.

I found a delicious Persian Chicken and Rice recipe on the Honest & Tasty blog:

Parvaneh also served birthday cake and cookies. My Persian Kitchen has a yummy recipe for Naan Gerdooee (walnut cookies).


Ove dislikes that modern, pop music with its drum beats that sound to him like gun shots. He occasionally watches television but doesn’t seem to listen to a whole lot of music. Of course, the Kings and Queens of Swedish pop music are ABBA and much of their work has the sort of free-spirited, upbeat feel that would match well with the tone of A Man Called Ove. 


I’d love to be able to see this movie but it’s not on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Happy Reading & Eating!





Geraldine Brooks’ The Secret Chord

david and goliath

David and Goliath, N.C. Wyeth

Geraldine Brooks is a writer of no ordinary skill. In Year of Wonders, People of the Book, Caleb’s Crossing and the Pulitzer-Prize winning March, Brooks achieves what all of us who are writers hope to achieve by creating a work of art, a big picture story by focusing her writing on the details of one person, one place, one story.

In The Secret Chord, Brooks turns her focus to the life of a man of no ordinary skill. David. Giant-slayer. Shepherd. Musician. King. A man, according to the Old Testament, after God’s own heart. It is an extraordinary book.

King David

Gerritt van Honthorst, King David Playing the Harp

A man alone in a room. Not such an extraordinary thing. Yet as I stepped into the chamber I had a sense of something out of place. My eye traveled around the space, the woven pillows, the low tables set with sweating ewers of cool water . . . all was in order, yet something was not right. Then I grasped it. It had been a while since I had found him in a room by himself.

. . . His fists, balled tight, were planted on the wide sill of the window embrasure, his arms encircled by polished copper cuffs. His hair, the same color as the copper, was undressed, and fell in a dense mane against the fine black wool of his mantle. The cuffs glinted in the low slant of early light as his arm muscles flexed. He was clenched from head to foot.

The Secret Chord relates the well-known Biblical incidents in David’s life through the eyes of those closest to him. King David tasks the prophet Nathan, our narrator, with compiling record of his life and from that beginning, Nathan sets out to interview David’s jealous brother, his loving (but guilt-ridden) mother, his first wife Mikhail and ultimately, Nathan finishes the story from the vantage point of his own decades-long relationship with the king.

Shammah, David’s brother speaks of his 14-year-old brother’s duel with Goliath, champion of the Plishtim foes. And in Geraldine Brooks’ skillful prose, the reader is right there at the feet, in the dust of Shammah’s courtyard, listening to a witness tell firsthand of one of the most legendary battles in history.

“All right. I’ll confess: We all of us wanted to see him put back in his place. And we all of us underestimated him. David saw his chance and he took it. . . . So it went on as it usually did. The Plishtim archers lined up, and so did we, with the usual field banging and insults. Goliath stepped out and called for his man. And there goes little brother, prancing in and out of the line, brandishing his staff. When Goliath saw him, he threw back his massive head and laughed. Well, why wouldn’t he? Does a gnat worry a bear? He yelled out to David, “Am I a dog that you come against me with sticks?'”

According to Brooks’ afterword in The Secret Chord, David is the first man in literature whose story is told from early childhood to extreme old age. Her choice to examine this story from the perspective of Nathan the prophet, the traditionally-recognized author of David’s story in the Biblical book of First Samuel, is a strong one. We discover the parts of David’s story as  Nathan does, gaining his perspective as well as our own.

If your book club chooses to read The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks, you may want to want this interview by with the author. It includes some of the beautiful art works associated with King David as well.

I couldn’t recommend a novel more highly. Enjoy!


Geraldine Brooks writes of all details of daily life of David, so she manages to include an impressive amount of food choices. From the novel: grapes, apricots, figs, soft bread, cheese, olives, a basket of flatbread, fragrant spiced (onion, cumin, coriander) grains, with yogurt to blend into the grains. Fat lambs turning on a spit, fowl roasting in clay ovens. And this, which I had to research: “bread and laban (strained yogurt), zait and zatar (extra virgin olive oil mixed with thyme).” And wine. Wine with everything.

I would begin with a tray of grapes, apricots, cheeses and olives


A big bowl of greek yogurt, plain

I’m going to order the zatar from a website I found. It sounds delicious and with many health benefits. Apparently, you’re to dip the bread into the olive oil and then into the spices.

Barley cooked with onion, cumin and coriander

Chicken. I don’t have a  clay oven, though I’d like one. So I found a recipe in my grandmother’s cache that sounds yummy.

Put 1 teaspoon garlic, salt and pepper on (a whole, cut up) chicken. Place in pan, skin side down, large pieces on outside of pan. Mix 1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Pour over chicken. Bake 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Turn chicken and bake 30 more minutes. Baste during baking.


I will play harp music! Of course. I’ve found quite a list of downloadable music on Amazon of harp arrangements of the psalms.


David: Sam Heughan (recently of Outlander) PERFECTION!

Nathan: Adrien Brody

Abigail: Rachel Weisz

Mikhal: Natalie Portman

Bathsheba: Odeya Rush

Happy Reading and Eating!


Sam Heughan



Odeya Rush



Readers Write

readers write

Reader Ella Olsen wrote today to tell me how much she’s enjoying daeandwrite, and gave me permission to post her comments. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that you’re reading and enjoying the blog! Keep your comments coming and I hope you’ll share daeandwrite with your friends and share your photos, music, food, recipes, ideas with me!

Ella wrote:

This blog looks great! Excited to find it! I’ve been browsing back posts – so great! Love the format: review of the book paired with food selections, music for mood & book inspired photos!

Happy Reading & Eating!