Reviews

“Edith’s Diary” by Patricia Highsmith

I must start by saying that reading Patricia Highsmith is always an experience. She seems to thrive on testing the limits, on taking that one wobbly step over the line long ago burnt in the sand by the rules, the norms.

Even though holding such high expectations, she still managed to surprise me by being more… concealed than usual. There’s nothing straightforward – or perhaps there is nothing but straightforwardness and we are simply not taught to recognize it as such – about Highsmith’s novels, and yet there’s something even more particular about Edith’s Diary.

Imagine you are at someone else’s place. You have been told to wait for your hosts on their immense library on the second floor. It’s an old Victorian house and the steps creak as you climb your way up. You find the room without much trouble and your eyes travel the universe of displayed spines in wonder. You presume the old floorboards will inform you of their impending appearance when the time comes. However, their steps are light and you only realize they have arrived when you turn to find them already staring at you in the face, no warning whatsoever. You almost jump out of your skin, covering the embarrassment with an apologetic smile. You can’t help but wonder though, how did that happen? That is how I would describe reading Edith’s Diary, but it somehow feels as if you are both the one left waiting and the approaching hosts.

If I had to choose one single word to describe this novel I would go with restless. I wouldn’t recommend reading this one before bed. I became rather agitated as I both waited and found my way up the stairs. It was truly one of those experiences that I will not soon forget.

I would say that Edith is, first and foremost, grieving. Not just the physical death of her loved ones, but also the death of her marriage and of her many daydreamed could have beens. I find it incredible how Highsmith seems to make the reader blend with Edith. Is she becoming insane? Are we becoming insane? I believe Highsmith would reply with a rather smug, aren’t we all?

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