The Price of Salt (other title: Carol)

Written by Patricia Highsmith (pseudonym Claire Morgan)


Keywords: Sexual orientation, homosexuality as seen by society, relations between men and women

For: adults

Trigger warnings: Homophobia


Based on a true story plucked from Highsmith’s own life, The Price of Salt (or Carol) tells the riveting drama of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose routine is forever shattered by a gorgeous epiphany—the appearance of Carol Aird, a customer who comes in to buy her daughter a Christmas toy. Therese begins to gravitate toward the alluring suburban housewife, who is trapped in a marriage as stultifying as Therese’s job. They fall in love and set out across the United States, ensnared by society’s confines and the imminent disapproval of others, yet propelled by their infatuation. The Price of Salt is a brilliantly written story that may surprise Highsmith fans and will delight those discovering her work.


Review :

the review contains spoilers

This novel is one of the first ones tackling romantic relations between two women. We still perceive a certain influence from its era.

Although Therese is the main character, she isn’t very well developed. Her main characteristics are being young, being an intern as a theatre set designer and being in love with Carol. Carol is mainly characterized by the fact that she is beautiful, blond, rich, in love with Therese, and that she has a child and an ex-husband.

The most developed character is, ironically, Richard, who’s Therese’s date, and he is still very one-dimensional in the sense that his reactions are very predictable and he has very few characteristics of his own.

Obvisously, there is a lot of hate towards homosexuality. In the book, this homophobia is viewed through the eyesof a man. Richard keeps repeating to Therese that she is juste going through a phase, that she will come to her senses and that he will wait for her out of generousity.

Other than the couples Therese-Carol and Carol-Abby, there is no other homosexual characters and no characters of colour. The story happens in the 50s in New York and is somewhat avant garde for its time.