The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Published by She Winked Press
Published 1 March 2011 (First published in 1952)
Digital library book
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
Therese is nineteen and working in a department store during the Christmas shopping season. She dates men, although not with real enthusiasm. One day a beautiful older woman comes over to her counter and buys a doll. As the purchase is a C.O.D. order, Therese makes a mental note of the customer’s address. She is intrigued and drawn to the woman. Although young, inexperienced and shy, she writes a note to the customer, Carol, and is elated and surprised when Carol invites her to meet.
Therese realizes she has strong feelings for Carol, but is unsure of what they represent. Carol, in the process of a bitter separation and divorce, is also quite lonely. Soon the two women begin spending a great deal of time together. Before long, they are madly and hopelessly in love. The path is not easy for them, however. Carol also has a child and a very suspicious husband—dangerous ground for the lovers. When the women leave New York and travel west together, they discover the choices they’ve made to be together will have lasting effects on both their lives.
Considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel to break the pulp publishing industry-enforced pattern of tragic consequences for its lesbian heroines, The Price of Salt was written pseudonymously by Patricia Highsmith—the author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
As one reviewer wrote in 1952, “Claire Morgan is completely natural. She has a story to tell and she tells it with an almost conversational ease. Her people are neither degenerate monsters nor fragile victims of the social order. They must—and do—pay a price for thinking, feeling and loving ‘differently,’ but they are courageous and true to themselves throughout.”
The lunch hour in the co-worker’s cafeteria at Frankenberg’s had reached its peak.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I’ve never read Patricia Highsmith before. I know. Shocking isn’t it? I saw the movie version of this recently called Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and loved it so had to read the book.
The movie Carol sticks pretty close to the plot of The Price of Salt so there weren’t many surprises. I still enjoyed the book a lot more though. The Price of Salt is an important book, first published in the 50’s when two women being in love would have been considered freakish and unnatural. It still is for some people and in some places. The Price of Salt is the first lesbian pulp novel to have a reasonably happy ending. I didn’t read it for any of these reasons though. I read it for pleasure. Therese and Carol are hugely likable and hugely relatable characters. They are nothing like stereotypical lesbians portrayed in the media. I’m not butch or masculine so I instantly related to them. Even though the book is set in the 50’s the experiences of the two women still resonate now and probably always will. I remember how I felt the first time I thought I loved another woman. I felt exactly like Therese. I like how normal Therese and Carol are in The Price of Salt, as if the fact they are both women in love with each other is neither here nor there. The Price of Salt is hugely enjoyable and moved me deeply.