Study of the Fiction of Patricia Highsmith - From the Psychological to the Political

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This is the first book-length study of all of Highsmith’s work, including the short fiction and her occasional writings, such as book reviews. It places the work in both cultural and personal context, and contains a comprehensive bibliography and review of the literature. Though often dismissed in the US as simply a suspense writer whose books became movies (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley), in Europe Highsmith is considered a major novelist and much is written about her.


“Mawer’s critical study of the novels and short stories, the first comprehensive one, will no doubt be the guide for a new generation of Highsmith readers….Highsmith’s is a complicated art, to be sure, and Mawer’s analysis moves always in the direction of clarity. She keeps her readers in mind throughout, focuses on Highsmith’s work, not the critical theories of the hour, writes almost without psychobabble, and draws on extensive experience with popular culture and the social and political milieu since the 1950s….Moreover, her grounding in psychology allows her to delineate Highsmith’s creatures in ways that enlighten without overwhelming….Although she never confuses the writer with the written, Mawer wisely devotes her final chapter to the covert and overt homosexual attachments and erotic undertones which are part of Highsmith’s created world from the pseudonymously published The Price of Salt (1952) to her last novel, Small g: A Summer Idyll (1995)….Anyone coming to the reading of Highsmith for the first time as well as those for whom her fiction is an already experienced work, will discover that Noel Mawer’s book adds to their understanding and pleasure.” – June Steffensen Hagen, PhD, City University of New York (retired)

“Mawer, in this thorough and insightful book length study, has given us an analysis of Highsmith’s work that organizes it thematically, applies psychological theory in an illuminating way, and clarifies a number of strands in Highsmith’s work that a casual reader might fail to notice. The resulting examination of virtually all of Highsmith’s fictional oeuvre not only enlightens the reader about the work of a particular author but opens many windows to the kind of deeper understanding of the human condition that motivates us to read top notch fiction….Mawer provides an extensive and finely detailed explication and appreciation of her author’s work, but not a totally uncritical one. Her explorations tempt the reader to explore the works as yet unread and to return with renewed appreciation to those only read once. And, as the best critics do, she also, in many cases, leads the reader to reflect on the mysteries of personality and its relation to culture in new and intriguing ways.” – Beverly Almgren, PhD, Research Associate, Davis Center, Harvard University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Introduction: In Search of Patricia Highsmith
1. The Paradigm: The Ripley Novels
2. The Doppelganger: Early Novels
3. Society Intervenes: Game for the Living
4. Society Kills: The Glass Cell
5. The World and the Self: Late Novels
6. They Mystery Within
Appendix: Editions of Highsmith’s Works
Bibliography; Index

Other Literature: Multiple Categories Books