The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

I had high hopes for reading my first Patricia Highsmith, but this story seems tedious and boring. I can’t seem to root for any character, and am least interested in their fates.

Halfway through, the pacing and storyline changed, or rather, drifted away from the grasp of author. How will she ever make all the stray ends meet? The cat and mouse chase has exhausted itself within the first few pages of the second half.

Ah! But a convenient ending. In retrospect, the story owes most of its mystery to the labyrinthine Greece, the snaking waterways, the ancient ruins. The characters are easily disposed off when desirable – characteristic of a weak thriller.

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • There was an air of melancholy about him, melancholy turned outward rather than inward, as if he brooded not on his own problems but the world’s.
  • But don’t be bitter, if you can help it. You once told me you understood the uselessness of hatred and resentment. I hope it’s true now more than ever,
  • So much had happened in the ten years since. Now he was supposed to be a mature man. He remembered Proust’s remark, that people do not grow emotionally. It was a rather frightening thought.
  • Of all man’s capacities, Rydal was thinking as he rode on the airlines bus towards the airport, memory was the most eerie, pleasant, painful, no doubt at times the most deceptive.
  • She’d finally refused. Thus did dreary life repeat what had already taken place in his imagination, and not surprise him at all.
  • It was a dull town, Chania, but Rydal rather liked dull towns, because they forced one to look at things—for want of anything else to do—that one might not otherwise notice.
  • A psychological purge by some sort of re-enactment that I don’t even understand yet is going on in me—and I am sure it is all for the good.
  • It was anger, contempt, and the kind of hostility that looked as if it could burst forth in some unpremeditated action.

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