Patricia Highsmith

Under a Dark Angel’s Eye

"Terrific read"


Purchase the book from Amazon.


To celebrate the centenary of Patricia Highsmith's birth, Virago have delivered this gorgeous collection of Highsmith tales. Sadly, nothing new here, but having a good excuse to re-read Highsmith's short stories after so long is always a treat. My first introduction to Highsmith in the early 90s was via her stories in the collection, 'Eleven' a.k.a 'The Snail-Watcher' in the US. A couple of the stories were heavily swayed by snails – and not knowing at the time of Highsmith's penchant for snails – I thought it was quite delightfully bonkers. Of course, this didn't put me off and I have been reading Highsmith off and on for years, most recently pulling my socks up and finally getting round to complete The Ripliad. But her stories are where I started with Highsmith and I go back to them time and again. The stories from 'Little Tales of Misogyny' are so tongue in cheek that you can only ever imagine someone like Highsmith, cackling away as she hammered out these weird little tales on her typewriter and then getting away with publishing 'Oona, The Jolly Cave Woman' which is barely two pages long alongside others in the same vein. As with all selected stories, there are some that are going to missed out that are favourites, but there are plenty here to sink your teeth into. An early story, 'The Heroine' shows Highsmith cutting her teeth on the suspense she would end up fine tuning and make her own. This is not as subtle as her later work, but provides a shock nonetheless. Some stories feel like a frieze depicting an incident, a moment in time. Even across the years I still remembered with clarity 'The Cries of Love', which is sublime. That is what is amazing about Highsmith, despite the thirty year gap, her stories zinged so much that they embedded themselves in my memory and popped up complete, as a whole before I even started the story. Highsmith is like the proverbial box of chocolates. You may not like everyone, but there is plenty to choose from, even from the opener of this collection, 'Primroses Are Pink' which has such a simple premise and yet it still follows me about in my head. Highsmith tells her story, but ends it in such a subtle way that there is that note of the situation continuing, building up, but Highsmith hasn't filled in the gaps, the what ifs… she leaves that to her reader. Could a squabble over the colour of Primrose cause depression, mental instability, even murder? It is these deft touches that makes Highsmith's writing remarkable and addictive. Whatever you say about the woman herself, with this new volume we get to enjoy her words, her style, her wit, her mannered savagery and be led happily and meekly down that path, deep, deep into the woods…

Reviewed By:

Chris Simmons