Friday, September 30, 2016

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Title: Strangers on a Train
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Publisher: Harper & Brothers (1950) 

This month’s pick is the second of the year that we got from our reader poll at the end of last year. It's really fun to do these that were voted on. Interestingly for me, I happened to read my first Highsmith earlier this year so this was a second foray into this very popular author’s backlist.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here.

Click here for Michael's film review of Strangers on a Train 
at It Rains... You Get Wet

Title: Germane. :)

Synopsis: Two strangers meet on a train (who knew?) and one of them, Bruno, is a bit of an odd one. However, the second, Guy, clearly has odd lying in wait beneath the surface. When Bruno gets Guy drunk and then suggests they help each other out with some murdering, Guy is pretty sure he wants to say no. He does but he also underestimates just how much Bruno wants to “help.”

What works: How easily the reader can get lost in the minds of Highsmith’s characters. She gets you so close to these weirdos that you almost want a quick shower after you finish reading.

Bruno's super creepy but wholly sincere tokens. I just loved his "nice town" comment on the postcard.

What doesn’t: It’s spoilerish so highlight if interested: Immediately after Guy finds out about Miriam’s murder he could easily go to the police with everything that happened and solve this problem. Instead, the rest of the book happens. It was hard for me to get past that.

I know it’s slightly unfair of me to conflate this book with the other I read this year (The Talented Mr Ripley) but all the characters blend together, within this one and across to the other book I read. When Bruno and Guy sometimes overlapped, which was a little bit the point I think, I kept losing track of who was who but not really in a good way. And if I find her male characters uninspiring her female characters don’t even bear mentioning. Ugh. What a disappointment.

It’s kind of a boring book.

Overall: It’s not that I mind a slow burn type structure, it’s just that I’ve always found pathological self-justification tedious. On the one hand, Highsmith seems to wonderfully capture the pathos of her characters (I say seems because, really, how can I know? these people are that far off their rockers) but on the other hand, as the whiny, entitled mind-ramblings ramble on, I got bored. However, there is clearly a huge fan base out there for Highsmith so obviously YMMV.

Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Coming up next:  
The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz