The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

“I know what they’d like, they’d like a blank they could fill in. A person already filled in disturbs them terribly.”

Forbidden love between two human beings, who both happen to be female, in an era where homosexuality was illegal and deemed to be a symptom of a disturbing psychological illness. Patricia Highsmith does an exceptional job of conjuring up vivid imagery that would be typically associated with the booming 50s – red lipstick, dry martinis, and shiny Corvettes.

Written in the 1950s, ‘The Price of Salt’ by Patricia Highsmith is poignant, now more than ever. In a world where the far-right and intolerance is prevailing, the author’s sensitively-written story of repression and conformity still tugs at the heart strings over 60 years on. And why should it not? Everybody enjoys a story about falling in love – even the Grinch. Chemistry. Lust. Longing. But who can really say, with 100% clarity, why love happens between two strangers?

It’s almost bizarre that I found myself willing these two people to find a path to happiness, together, and yet disliked each one of them, as individuals, immensely. Carol is more than just aloof; she’s cold and consumed by bitterness. Therese, a timid mouse, is thoroughly unsure of who she really is and becomes obsessed with Carol, somebody who runs so hot and cold that it can be difficult to decide if her feelings are genuine.

Both women are products of the society they live in. Carol is so frightened of feeling the painful and delicate aches of a love that always seems to be slightly out of her grasp – a love that is taboo and frowned upon – that she shuts her heart away behind an icy facade. Therese, a deviation from a typical late-teen, finds herself floating along with the current of Carol’s bewitching tide.

The threat of heartbreak throughout the novel is what really drives its intrigue. The last chapter is awe-inspiring, rounding off the novel’s devastating honesty with an exquisitely courageous silver lining. With every carefully crafted turn of phrase, Patricia Highsmith takes the reader on an unforgettable journey that would even make the likes of Lord Voldemort shed a tear.

Oh, and Cate Blanchett does an absolutely sterling job of portraying Carol in the film adaptation. Definitely recommended.

Book Worm’s Score: 9.9/10 and a dry martini with an olive 

 

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