Cover image for Small g : a summer idyll
Small g : a summer idyll
Highsmith, Patricia, 1921-1995.
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, 2004.

Physical Description:
310 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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In unmistakable Highsmithian fashion, Small g, Patricia Highsmith's final novel, opens near a seedy Zurich bar with the brutal murder of Petey Ritter. Unraveling the vagaries of love, sexuality, jealousy, and death, Highsmith weaves a mystery both hilarious and astonishing, a classic fairy tale executed with a characteristic penchant for darkness. Published in paperback for the first time in America, Small g is at once an exorcism of Highsmith's literary demons and a revelatory capstone to a wholly remarkable career. It is a delightfully incantatory work that, in the tradition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, shows us how bizarre and unpredictable love can be.

Author Notes

Patricia Highsmith wrote twenty-one novels including "Strangers on a Train" & the "Ripley" series. She died in 1995 in Switzerland, where she resided much of her life.

(Publisher Provided) Patricia Highsmith (January 19, 1921 -- February 4, 1995) was an American novelist and short story writer, most widely known for her psychological thrillers, which led to more than two dozen film adaptations. She was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Highsmith grew up with her maternal grandmother in Astoria, Queens, and attended Barnard College.

Her first novel, Strangers on a Train (1950), was adapted for stage and screen numerous times, notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. In addition to her acclaimed series about murderer Tom Ripley, which was made into a film in 1955, she wrote many short stories, often macabre, satirical or tinged with black humor. Highsmith liked to examine the ways in which people can get to the point where they are capable of murder, as well as who they become after they have committed a crime. In carefully constructed stories and novels, she integrated this scrutiny of the human psyche into complex plots that often took unexpected twists. In Strangers on a Train, architect Guy Haines meets Charles Bruno on a train. Bruno conceives a plan to have Haines kill Bruno's father, while Bruno will kill Haines's wife. The effect that this plan has on Haines is the focus of the story.

Highsmith's awards include: O. Henry Award for best publication of first story, for "The Heroine" in Harper's Bazaar (1946), Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, for The Talented Mr. Ripley (1957), and the Dagger Award -- Category Best Foreign Novel, for The Two Faces of January from the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain (1964).

Highsmith died of aplastic anemia and cancer in Locarno, Switzerland, at age 74. Her last novel, Small G: A Summer Idyll, was published one month after her death in 1995.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This final book from esteemed crime writer Highsmith, who died in 1995, is more a complement to her pseudonymous lesbian novel Price of Salt than to her better known Ripley thrillers. The action centers on Jakob's, a pub in Zurich known as Small g for its partially gay clientele. A colorful clash of characters meet and mingle at Small g, including Rickie, a self-consciously aging gay man; Luisa, a young seamstress with a troubled past; Renate, Luisa's controlling and viciously homophobic employer and landlady; and Renate's neohenchman, Willi, a sinister and brooding halfwit. Following the stabbing death of Petey, Rickie's young lover, Rickie befriends Luisa, who had once been his rival for Petey's affections. They similarly both fall for and lust after the fetching Teddie, whose arrival at Small g triggers an escalating series of disastrous events. While Highsmith's last book--only now published in the U.S.-- does not live up to its potential as a suspense thriller, it does offer an intriguing exploration of gay culture and the complexities of love, jealousy, possessiveness, and friendship. --Misha Stone Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The last novel by this still underappreciated author, published here nine years after Highsmith's death, is a sour, mostly inert comedy of manners. In Zurich, Rickie Markwalder mourns his younger lover, Peter Ritter, stabbed to death late one night six months earlier. Accompanied by his small dog, Lulu, Rickie haunts a local bar called Jakob's, identified in guidebooks with a "small g" (for gay), hanging out with acquaintances. The bar draws a mixed crowd, most of whom are in love with people they shouldn't be (a familiar Highsmith theme). Renate, a club-footed, middle-aged atelier owner and her young employee Luisa are other regulars. Homophobic to the point of caricature, Renate despised Peter (upon whom Luisa had a crush) and despises Rickie. When a handsome young man, Teddie, comes to the bar, she and an associate set out to wreck any relationship he might develop with either Rickie or Luisa, both of whom are attracted to him. When Rickie and Luisa realize what Renate is trying to do, they make their own plans to punish her in return. While the narrative never flags, at no point does it take off. There are flashes of the author's wit, but much of the writing captures surfaces and nothing more, and Highsmith's remarkable observational powers are muffled. Although most of the characters are well drawn, Renate is simply too much of an ogre to serve as either a realistic threat or a foil, and the story suffers accordingly. Overall, this is a disappointing final note by one of our more interesting writers. Agent, Diogenes Verlag. (June) Forecast: After a flurry of reissues in the last few years, Highsmith fatigue may be setting in. This novel isn't likely to reverse the trend, though as a new release it's something of a novelty. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Completed shortly before Highsmith's death in 1995, her final novel opens with the assault and murder of Rickie Markwalder's boyfriend, Pete, near Zurich on a January night. No one is apprehended, and Rickie is heartbroken and angry amid a swirl of nasty rumors started by local dressmaker Renate, a homophobe with a club foot. Jump ahead to the summer: Rickie has begun to move on with his life, throwing himself into his advertising and design work and resuming his daily visits to Jakob's, a pub/restaurant that is the village hub (travel guides mark it with a small G for "gay friendly;" thus the title). There, he runs into Renate, her apprentice, Luisa; and Renate's cohort, Willi, among other regulars. He has little success with romance until Teddie enters Jakob's one evening and shakes up his routine forever. While Teddie is grateful for Rickie's attention and kindness, he falls as hard for Luisa as Rickie falls for him. The characters in this triangle go after what each desires, following a convoluted path of attraction, romance, and jealousy that reveals the power of friendship when attraction isn't reciprocated or romance wanes. As Highsmith did in her Ripley series, she exposes the pettiness, greed, and selfishness as well as the kindness, compassion, and selflessness of her characters. A powerful and mesmerizing read; highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/04.]-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.