His mother was fighting a losing battle, Cliffie thought, because she was trying to fight the majority. The majority wasn’t even fighting back, it was just indifferent.
Oh, gadz, I wanted to hit most of the characters in this story. Repeatedly. With a shovel. Not only was this story of the suburban dream more of a nightmare, but Highsmith’s detailed character description made the characters come to life more than I cared for.
Edith is looking forward to the prospect of moving from New York to Brunswick Corner, a small town in Pennsylvania, where she hopes to settle with her husband and son into a calmer more wholesome life. But soon the suburban dream falls apart as the model family shows cracks:
Edith’s son, Cliffie, is a despicable little horror (he tries to kill the cat a couple of times and that is just the start). Her husband turns out to be self-righteous, selfish coward. And Edith is left to bear the strain of all of it.
What makes the book truly miserable is the way that Edith’s cracking up is dealt with by the people around her, and so her keeping a diary, where she records a fantasy of a perfect life she imagines, becomes the symbol of her madness, her rebellion, as well as of the way society hides what is perceived as the imperfect, the damaged.
This is one of the most political works I have read by Highsmith. It heavily features Edith’s (not necessairly the author’s) thoughts on the Kennedys, the Vietnam War, Nixon, Watergate, etc. as a backdrop to Edith’s alienation with her suburban neighbours.
Even tho I found it compelling, Edith’s Diary is not a book I would recommend easily. It just really too depressing and frustrating to pass on to a friend. However, for the Highsmith enthusiast, this shows another side of her writing where she explores the connection between societal norms and psychological derangement.