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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 26 September 2008
The year is 1950-something. New York city. The scene is the toy department of Frankenberg's. Therese Belivet is staring into space, her toe is bleeding, her career in stage designing is nowhere near Broadway, she is not in love with her boyfriend, she has no family. Then she meets the completely mesmerising Mrs H. F. Aird, first name Carol, a customer looking at dolls as a present for her daughter. Therese attends her with as much professionalism as she can muster, but her heart is lost and when the woman has disappeared behind closed lift doors, she takes a chance and writes a Christmas card. Carol calls her to say thank you then proceeds to invite the impressionable Therese for lunch.

What happens next is a true adventure of the heart. It is as much as a growing up tale, as it is a love story. Carol is the divorced older woman who is given a chance to completely break free and throw caution to the wind. Therese is the young girl who has no real past but chances for an uncertain future with what may possibly be true love. Together, they give in to their desires: they answer the questions of their heart fully and unashamedly. But all is not well, and the fragility of love is put through the test of seperation and persecution.

The novel, initially published as A Price of Salt in 1951, is as undeniable read. In my opinion, it's a beautiful book to read on a rainy day, curled up in bed. It's carless and passionate. There's an amazing trip taken into the American heartland. It calls out to the adventurer and lover in us all. Give it a chance and take the trip down the heady and bubbly road of what we dare call love.
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on 30 August 2013
I first read this book back in the late '80s after seeing a review of it. I knew the Ripley books and Highsmith's writing but Carol came as a complete surprise.Other reviewers have described the story itself, but what has stayed with me over the years is that this is a book which does not date. If you cast aside the backdrop of New York in the 50's it is as fresh and relevant now as it was then. While justly lauded as one of the first novels to explore a lesbian love affair and dare to give it a "happy" ending (meaning the characters decided to stay together despite all the social pressures), Carol has qualities which elevate it above the genre of "lesfic". It broaches issues that remain problematic for all of us- how to find personal happiness while resisting social pressures, for example; how the masculine world attempts to superimpose its view on everyone and how this can both deceive and trap us- men and women both. It is relevant, for example, that while Richard firmly embraces the status quo, Dannie is more open-minded and flexible, understanding that he needs to give Therese space to decide both her sexual orientation and the person she can truly love; it also dwells in the first section on the soullessness of working for a large corporation, and on the social differences that can determine our fate. What makes Therese different from her workmates at the store is her vision of a much richer cultural life and her determination, despite her humble origins,to follow her ambitions and desires. It is this drive which brings her to Carol's attention and sets in motion the incredible chemistry that carries the rest of the story forward.It does not matter that, as Highsmith says, Therese is "a bit of a shrinking violet" or that the story contains very little actual sex. The text has a deceptively simple structure but it positively vibrates with the tension between the two and with the rollercoaster ride of emotions that Therese faces as she confronts the barriers Carol's marital situation places between them.

As a gay novel, I suppose it might be compared with Gore Vidal's "The City and the Pillar", being both a near contemporary and the first work by an established mainstream writer to bring gay issues into the public domain in a sympathetic way.But as a work of fiction it is by far the more powerful and accomplished book. After 25 years, the now much travelled and crumpled paperbook of Carol remains on my bookshelves and is one of my favourite books of all time.
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on 25 March 2010
This was one of the most moving and thought provoking love stories of first love, I have ever read. It is totally immaterial that this is a lesbian love story as it could be a love story for any age or any time. But perhaps it is particularly brave because of the time when it was written and the context in which this was written. It is also a story of obsession, and a story of absent parental love and the effect that it has on the life of the main character - Therese and the tough choices she eventually makes. This is not a cliche ridden story, and has many facets, examining the effect that love for a member of ones own sex has upon what was then perhaps the typical male of the era (early fifties) when this was written. For a lonely young woman living alone in a world of what appears to be 'happy families' around her, tough decisions are made that affect not just her life but the lives of others too. It was extremely hard for me to put this book down, reading long into the night and savouring every line. As with all really good books, I was very sorry when I reached the end, despite reading as slowly as possible to spin the story out! If you wish to read a love story with a happy ending against the odds - then this is for you. Doubtless I shall return to this book many times. I do feel that I must mention here, this was only the second book of Patricia Highsmith's that I have read.
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on 30 June 2003
For those familiar with Highsmith's more renowned tales of murder and intrigue, this has a refreshingly different theme, quite starkly autobiographical, and rather brave for the times it was written in. This was only her second novel, but already her distinctive style was already established - a crisp, compelling and no-nonsense style of writing that sets it apart.
Young Therese meets Carol, a customer at the doll department in Frankenbergs where she works. This fleeting encounter is described by Therese as a vision, a sudden realisation of one's desires in another. In this story, she and Carol meet, become friends and later on, become lovers during a road trip they take together right across America.
It is a very sensitively written portrayal of love, at a time when such relationships were considered degenerate and as Highsmith said herself, most fiction pertaining to the subject ended in dissolution and tragedy. Here was a refreshing outlook to a previously controversial subject, and her treatment of it was bold and wonderfully low-key, tasteful and un-sensationalist. For that reason, I think it deserves the 5 stars. I also like the depiction of personal revelations of love, which do not consider the usual, hackneyed questions of "Is this perverse?" but then later on, goes on to challenge the perceptions of the world and so-called respectable society.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 November 2015
First published in 1952 under the title 'The Price of Salt', Patricia Highsmith's 'Carol' focuses on Therese Belivet, an aspiring stage designer, who is nineteen years old when we first meet her and, finding it difficult to get work in her chosen field, takes on a job in the toy section of a large department store in New York. Into the store one day, arrives coolly beautiful Carol Aird, a soon-to-be divorcee, who is buying a Christmas present for her daughter, Rindy. Therese, we learn, has a steady boyfriend who, very much attracted to her elfin prettiness and her creative mind, tells her he is in love with her and wants to take her to Europe with him, but although Therese is fond of Richard, she is not in love with him - in fact after only one encounter, Therese is smitten with the beauty and elegance of Mrs Aird, and on impulse she sends her a Christmas card with her telephone number written inside. Soon the pair are meeting up in bars and restaurants and at Carol's home, and Therese quickly realizes that she only really feels alive when she is with Carol, so when Carol suggests that they take a trip together, driving across North Western America, Therese accepts with enthusiasm, longing to be alone with the woman she has fallen in love with. However the trip does not quite turn out the way either Carol or Therese planned, and before long we learn that a private investigator, acting on behalf of Carol's estranged husband, who is fighting her for the custody of Rindy, is following their every move.

Due to the nature of this story and the time it was written, Patricia Highsmith (who herself had several romantic relationships with other women and based parts of her story on events that she actually experienced) published this novel under a pseudonym, and it was not until more than thirty years later that the book was republished with an afterward by Ms Highsmith, where she discusses how the novel came about and why she decided to publish it under an assumed name. The result is a very readable novel written in a crisp, clean-cut prose, where the author deftly describes situation and setting, and where 1950s America and its social mores is brought sharply to life. A tale of moral dilemma and self-discovery, this story also has its suspenseful and rather compelling moments and I found that once I had started reading, I wanted to continue until I had discovered where the author was going with her story and what would ultimately happen to her two heroines. I haven't read any Patricia Highsmith before, but reading this has made me interested in discovering more about her life and to that end I am now contemplating obtaining a copy of: Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith and I understand that Jill Dawson has written a novel based around Ms Highsmith entitled 'The Crime Writer' which will be published next year.

4 Stars.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2016
I read the Price of Salt, now renamed Carol, after going to see the 2015 film, which I absolutely adored. The film was true enough to the book, and powerful enough to make it impossible not, while reading, to see mental pictures from the movie, and in particular the stars, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

The story is that of Therese, a young woman with hopes of becoming a theatrical set designer, (in the film, a photographer) but who is making ends meet by working in a department store. In the run up to Christmas, she serves a glamorous middle class woman, Carol. There is an instant attraction between the two and after Therese sends Carol a Thank You Card, she is invited out to lunch,and a relationship between the two develops.

As they grow closer, we learn about three other relationships at different stages of disintegration. Theresa's increasing involvement with Carol throws a pitiless light on the shortcomings of her relationship with her boyfriend, Richard. This is a beautiful depiction of an unbalanced couple where one is filled with ardour, while the other, being fond, doesn't quite realise that she has fallen into a relationship of habit without any real strength of feeling.

Carol herself is in the process of separating from, and divorcing, her husband Harge, with custody of their daughter giving the book one of its key themes, the conflict between romantic and maternal love.

Third there is Abby, a woman with whomCarol has had a previous relationship which has now relaxed into friendship.

If it must be classified, I'm sure the Price of Salt would be categorised as lesbian fiction, and indeed I have read that many have found the story of Therese finding her sexuality to be an enlightening one. In one of the most telling lines of the book, and the period in which it was written and set, Therese describes her feelings for Carol as being like like love except they are both women. It would however be a shame to put this book in a genre pigeon hole, because it is fundamentally a love story, which tells truths about love, irrespective of the genders of the protagonists. It tells of the joy, the obsession, the insecurity of love. Carol is herself a fascinating character. At first she seems almost predatory, taking the lead with the young and inexperienced Therese, but as the story unfolds, her vulnerability becomes apparent, and she is anything but the dominant party as the book reaches it conclusion.

If w are talking about genres, there are two others which should be mentioned. This is a road movie of a book, indeed one might almost imagine it as being an influence on the writers of Thelma and Louise. It also has a strong flavour of fifties noir with private detectives and hidden firearms.

In summary, a superb, compelling and convincing love story.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 November 2015
First published in 1952, Patricia Highsmith's 'The Price of Salt' (now retitled as 'Carol'), focuses on Therese Belivet, an aspiring stage designer, who is nineteen years old when we first meet her and, finding it difficult to get work in her chosen field, takes on a job in the toy section of a large department store in New York. Into the store one day, arrives coolly beautiful Carol Aird, a soon-to-be divorcee, who is buying a Christmas present for her daughter, Rindy. Therese, we learn, has a steady boyfriend who, very much attracted to her elfin prettiness and her creative mind, tells her he is in love with her and wants to take her to Europe with him, but although Therese is fond of Richard, she is not in love with him - in fact after only one encounter, Therese is smitten with the beauty and elegance of Mrs Aird, and on impulse she sends her a Christmas card with her telephone number written inside. Soon the pair are meeting up in bars and restaurants and at Carol's home, and Therese quickly realizes that she only really feels alive when she is with Carol, so when Carol suggests that they take a trip together, driving across North Western America, Therese accepts with enthusiasm, longing to be alone with the woman she has fallen in love with. However the trip does not quite turn out the way either Carol or Therese planned, and before long we learn that a private investigator, acting on behalf of Carol's estranged husband, who is fighting her for the custody of Rindy, is following their every move.

Due to the nature of this story and the time it was written, Patricia Highsmith (who herself had several romantic relationships with other women and based parts of her story on events that she actually experienced) published this novel under a pseudonym, and it was not until more than thirty years later that the book was republished with an afterward by Ms Highsmith, where she discusses how the novel came about and why she decided to publish it under an assumed name. The result is a very readable novel written in a crisp, clean-cut prose, where the author deftly describes situation and setting, and where 1950s America and its social mores is brought sharply to life. A tale of moral dilemma and self-discovery, this story also has its suspenseful and rather compelling moments and I found that once I had started reading, I wanted to continue until I had discovered where the author was going with her story and what would ultimately happen to her two heroines. I haven't read any Patricia Highsmith before, but reading this has made me interested in discovering more about her life and to that end I am now contemplating obtaining a copy of: Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith and I understand that Jill Dawson has written a novel based around Ms Highsmith entitled 'The Crime Writer' which will be published next year.

4 Stars.
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on 25 July 1999
Fall in love with Therese, the 19-year-old set designer, and, through her eyes, with Carol, the older married socialite and mother. As much a tale of coming of age, as coming out, almost as much a portrait of 50s New York and the American road, as a love story, the novel begs to be filmed. But then Highsmith's teasing and romancing of her reader would give way to something less subtle. Why can't we have both?
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on 30 November 2014
The book is superb. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Other reviews will flesh out the details of the plot. My comment is on the printing of this edition. It states printed by Amazon, and I admire their championing of difficult to find novels. But... a bit of proof-reading would have helped. The text is riddled with silly typos, bad punctuation, incongruous line breaks, lack of word spacing. It feels like a fourteen year old has typed it directly onto the page, from hand-written manuscript, with no supervision, and nobody to check it afterwards. It feels very amateurish and unprofessional. This, however, does not distract from a beautiful, tender, lesbian love story. Buy the book; ignore the typos, and enjoy.
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on 15 January 2011
Carol was first published in 1952, under a pseudonym, Claire Morgan, and with the less than riveting title The Price of Salt. At the time, Patricia Highsmith had just made a splash with Strangers on a Train, and as she explains in a note written in 1984 and included at the end of this paperback edition, she did not want to be typecast as `a lesbian-book writer', having disliked being labelled as a `suspense writer'. For the book deals with a relationship between two women, and was in many ways ahead of its time. Apart from its interest almost as a piece of social history, it also offers an interesting look at life in the New York City of the Fifties. I am glad that the publishers included a new introduction by Val McDermid, since introductions to older books often set them very interestingly in context, as McDermid does here. She takes issue with Highsmith's own claim that the book has a `happy ending'. Which of these two major writers' interpretations is right? It is, perhaps, a question of judgment for each reader.

TW Reviewer Martin Edwards - author of the highly acclaimed Harry Devlin Mysteries)
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