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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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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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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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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, 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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This book reminded me so much of Lolita. Well written and a taboo subject which ends up with a car ride across America and consequences. I heard the audio book which explains the circumstances of the writing the book and I was surprised it was written in 1952. I think the english version of Lolita was published in 1953, though I may be wrong as I have seen references to 1939, but it was published around the same time.

The book was published under a pseudonym and this is explained in both the audio book and recent versions of the book. It is very different to Patricia Highsmith's other stories, Entertaining Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train.

The book is a slow starter and is not 'edge of the seat stuff' so if you are looking for a frill a minute of sexual ecstasy and forbidden love scenes, this book is not for you. If you are looking for a well written book of intrigue and genuine love then this is up your street.

I will not go into a synopsis, the detail on the Amazon page will do that best but I would say that this book was a real eye-opener when first published and deserved to be.
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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 13 January 2016
Others, I'm guessing younger folks who did not come of age in a more closeted era, have complained about a 'lack of action' in this book. I feel this criticism misses the entire emotional truth of this fine book. That very 'lack of action' is symptomatic of the necessarily dilatory nature of the journey the two women were on. These were days of sitting on your hands; a misjudged move could more than end a friendship; it could result in reputational, familial, and economic ruin. This about two very brave women who sail tempestuous emotional waters to find each other & - most importantly hold onto that love despite the costs exacted by the bigotry of the age. Highly recommended.
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