Here you’ll meet seemingly familiar women with the power to destroy both themselves and the men around them. In these stories Highsmith is at her most scathing as she draws out the mystery and menace of her once ordinary subject.
Patricia Highsmith is renowned for her psychological thrillers and novels that have been adapted to screen. Her most notable book that I am familiar with is The Talented Mr Ripley, mainly due to the movie adaptation that I adored watching. Another of her pieces of writing that should be commended and mentioned is The Price of Salt which is the first lesbian novel with a happy ending to be published (and also is the novel that the 2015 movie Carol is based on). She wrote this collection of seventeen stories, highlighting the misogynistic stereotypes women have been branded with in a satirical, extremely defeatist tone.
This book was first published in German in 1975 before being published in English in 1977. What especially drew me to it was the art design. Waterstones Gower Street (I am not sure if it’s done outside other Waterstones, this is just the one that I was at) has this amazing initiative where they place bookshelves outside their stores and sell copies of books that have been damaged, not sold, at the price of £1. There is always a worry I have about books, that have either been folded or accidentally ripped in a book store, sent to be shredded. This cover was stunning, standing out both with it’s art design as well as it’s choice in typography which is mainly due to the fantastic work of Jonathan Gray.
While Patricia Highsmith’s writing is fantastic, I struggled at moments with this book. I understood the overall idea she had. I interpreted that she wrote these stories, portraying misogynistic concepts sarcastically, attempting to create a reaction from the audience. They seemed intentionally offensive and comical, almost like reading a collection of fairy tales about women, written by men. I found myself reading some of the stories thinking, “That’s ridiculous, this whole plot line seems absurd,” which, I imagine, was the aim.
While some stories were considerably well curated and delivered (The Hand, The Prude and The Victim were my particular stand-outs) some of them weren’t as impactful or well-thought-out which impacted to overall read of the collection. I had to occasionally remind myself this was published around 42 years ago. It felt very ahead of it’s time. Overall though, definitely an interesting read and something I feel content to have added to my collection. I would definitely pass this on to a friend to read as well, especially to get into a debate over it.
Language & Style: 7 points
Story: 6 points
Characters: 7 points
Plot: 6 points
Total: 26 points out of 40
Favourite Quotes: “He realised what a horrible mistake, crime even, he had been guilty of in demanding such a barbaric thing as a girl’s hand.”