I saw the film version of The Talented Mr. Ripley in theaters in 1999. I remember very little, other than one of the gorgeous leads (Jude Law or Matt Damon) spends some time in a bathtub and you can kind of see his junk for a second. I had no idea that it was based on the first of a series of books written in the 1950s. A pretty good book, too, although it features neither Jude Law or Matt Damon.
The book starts when our protagonist, Tom Ripley, is approached by the father of one of his acquaintances, Dickie Greenleaf. Mr. Greenleaf wants Tom to go to Italy, find his spoiled rotten son, and convince him to return home to see his ailing mother. Intrigued by an all-expenses paid trip to Italy, Tom agrees and soon sets out to find young Dickie and bring him home. Instead, he becomes wrapped up in Dickie’s life — to the point where he takes it for himself.
First of all, the writing is beautiful, and I’m about ready to sell a kidney and move to a beach in Italy. The undertones of what Tom feels for Dickie immediately sets the tone for the novel — this combination of attraction to not only Dickie but his lifestyle. Once Tom takes his first step towards that lifestyle, the book immediately becomes nothing but tension and dangerous actions. Very well-done.