Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith It's probably impossible to write spoilers for this book, given that its plot is so well-known as to be a cliche, but I don't plan to do so anyway, for the simple reason that so many others have done it, and done it well. I may have seen the Hitchcock film at some point, but if so, it was so long ago and so dimly remembered that I can honestly say it didn't interfere with my reading. The characters sprang from Highsmith's words.

I don't think I've ever read a book where the protagonist, if you could call him that, managed to tie himself into so many psychological knots. The tension in the story was rather like the tension of watching a high-wire artist: how on earth is he going to get from here to there? In the end, for Guy, it proves a little more easy than we like to imagine it would be for ourselves, but the author succeeds in instilling a little doubt about that, and, doing that, she achieves her purpose. It can be amusing and a bit illuminating if you view Guy and Bruno as two parts of the same psyche - oversimplified, the ego and the id, perhaps. And the problem of this ego, then, is that it is simply too weak to stand up against the persuasions and threats of the id. That line of thought falls apart, of course, if you try to match it too closely to the unfolding of the plot, but it does help a bit with explaining Guy's infuriating and largely self-imposed helplessness.

Based on the two novels I've read so far, Highsmith is all about her male characters, and her female characters are largely ciphers. Maybe that's unfair for the rest of her work, but it holds for this one and for The Two Faces of January.