18: The Glass Cell

The Glass Cell by Patricia Highsmith

Hmm, I haven’t read any Highsmith since 2005? How did that happen? Hmm. Well, I picked up two at The Book Shop this summer so I can now rectify that. (Although, I have to say there’s something to be said for consuming a favorite author’s work slowly, especially when you know their ouevre is finite.)

In the The Glass Cell, the MC is an ordinary guy who is wrongly convicted of a crime. The first half of the book covers his six years in prison; the second half what happens when he returns “home” (i.e. to where his wife now lives). This being Highsmith, I don’t think I’m being spoilery by saying there is no cheesy TV movie–style happy ending. What happens is pretty much what you expect to happen when you’re not expecting a happy ending.

TGC is billed as a psychological thriller, but that’s not really accurate. It works as a psychological study, but it’s lacking the sense of suspense (I was never surprised or on the edge of my seat, er, pillow) that Highsmith’s more well-known books have. It’s not thrilling. It is sad. It was almost like reading long-form journalism (where you already know the outcome, but you’re reading to see how the MC went from A to B), rather than a novel. If you’re looking for cheery escapism, this is not your book.