Edith lives two lives: in her diary, she has a happy family, her husband is loving and her son is successful; in reality, she has a dysfunctional family, her son is alcoholic and her husband is cheating. As her diary turns page by page, her utopian life climbing up higher and higher, to almost perfection; as reality moves day by day, her factual life sinks lower and lower, until the boredom and heavyweight routine gradually erodes her sweet heart, consumes her vital energy, take away her sanity and eventually crashes her life.
Among all Patricia Highsmith’s novels I’ve read – the most famous ones would be The stranger on the train, Ripliad series, Edith Diary is undoubtedly the best. The character (Edith) she crafted is extremely convincing and the scenario she conceived is hauntingly thought-provoking.
Highsmith is a master of creating antiheroes or psychopaths. In most of her books I have read, the antagonists are seemingly “normal” but possessed with “abnormal” desires or motives, but in Edith Diary, Edith is not at all a psychopath, instead, she is a normal middle class woman, a devoted housewife and mother, with a liberal mind that is compassionate to poors, cynic toward hypocritical powerful classes. But with such personality, she is cheated by husband, estranged by her son and her close friends, and at the end, she is pushed to a corner where she is “suffocated” by steadfast yet overwhelming misunderstanding, disbelief and selfishness from people she loves.
It is a depressing yet profoundly disturbing story. It shows the contract between “unique” and “normal”, forces readers to ask questions like: why does a person like Edith live such a miserable life? And this novel is not just novel, because what happens to Edith are all possible in real life. As matter of fact, it reminds me Van Gogh, a passionate mind that was mistaken as insanity.
I have no doubt that in this book Highsmith expressed her extreme detestation toward “mediocrity”, or so called “ordinary” majority. Perhaps, she wanted to show us the selfishness, hypocrisy and cruelty behind something we know as “normal”. And she succeeded.