Monday, July 20, 2015

Eleven by Patricia Highsmith

Obsession, murder, strange plot twists, unreliable narrators, deranged people, people who are driven to insanity by circumstances beyond their control--this is what I found in the collection of eleven short stories that make up Patricia Highsmith's Eleven. I've had this book for awhile and recently picked it up on a stormy Sunday afternoon with the intention of reading one story but found that I couldn't stop with just one story . . .

I've read that Highsmith had a love for snails and liked to carry them around in her purse, sometimes taking them out at dinner parties or at restaurants to let them roam around on the table. (Yuck!) There are two stories in Eleven that have to do with snails. My favorite is "The Snail-Watcher." It reminded me of an episode of the "Twilight Zone" and is about a man whose fascination with snails turns to obsession and becomes his downfall. 

Two other favorites have to do with unreliable narrators. "When the Fleet Was in at Mobile" is about a young woman who takes matters into her own hands to escape her abusive husband. In "Love Cries," two elderly women who are supposedly good friends do terrible things to each other's most beloved property. I still find myself thinking about this story and about these two women, mainly because Highsmith leaves out some important details of the plot. For example, are the women living in a hotel or a nursing home?

Delving into the darker side of human nature is what Patricia Highsmith did best. The stories in Eleven left me feeling a bit uneasy, but I loved reading them. If you enjoy these kinds of stories or Patricia Highsmith's writing, then I would recommend Eleven for you.

Eleven is on my list to read for The Classics Club.


  1. I've never read Patricia Highsmith, but you've convinced me that I must!

  2. I keep meaning to read something by Patricia Highsmith. This short story collection looks promising - although I am not much of a short story reader. The whole snail thing is a little weird - or maybe more than a little. LOL