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The Price of Salt

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  5,680 ratings  ·  448 reviews
Patricia Highsmith's story of sexual obsession may be one of the most important, but still largely unrecognized, novels of the twentieth century.

First published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan and touted as "the novel of a love society forbids", the book soon became a lesbian cult classic. Yet it was always relegated to a mystery subgenre and never before given t
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Paperback, 292 pages
Published March 17th 2004 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 1952)
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Community Reviews

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S.
Slinky 1950's couture, lesbian chic, unfiltered cigarettes and bottomless highballs have reappeared in the American zeitgeist and perhaps that style cycle is responsible for this sleek creature finally clawing its way out of confinement. It saddens me to think this book has been stuffed into a musty box labeled "lesbian romance" and left to molder for over fifty years.
It is a dark and forceful account of erotic obsession. It is a terrifying fairy tale told beside a phalanx of glass-eyed dolls
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Alice
Ok. I have Feelings about this book. And there might be some spoilery things, but no more than I was spoiled before reading it, so...it's probably not too bad.

I spent a large part of this being depressed because Carol's a total dick to Therese most of the time. HOWEVER. Omg the ending. Basically the last 20 or so pages. Awesome. And who doesn't love a road trip book? Because this is two ladies in love WHO ROAD TRIP IT. In the '50s. In America. Like Lolita, but less child-rapey. (I would like thi
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Kristi
so, i read a review of Terry Castle's new book "The Professor" in last Sunday's NYT, and, intrigued, googled her to find out more about her.

Many years ago, Castle wrote a book about Les Lit. I mean, this woman has read everything in that (typically horrible and wrist-slashingly painful) genre. In an interview, she said The Price of Salt is the best of its kind, hands down.

Not only that, but she went on to document how this novel inspired Lolita AND Thelma and Louise! I mean, with those two ref
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dean
This book had me in pieces by the end. That last chapter, oh my god.

Never mind the notion of Patricia Highsmith as an "unloving and unlovable woman"-- she clearly understood the painful delicate aches of love and loving and, having lost, the bittersweet triumph in growing up. The Price of Salt carries an emotional honesty that is exquisite and devastating.

Highsmith's prose is simple but she realizes even the smallest moments with a keen observance. The results are gorgeous and tender, and at tim
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Leah
Devoured.

Thoroughly absorbing and enchanting. Why oh why is there not more f/f romance written at this caliber? This is literary, lush, nuanced, and oh so satisfying aesthetically and intellectually.

What's really stunning is how this novel prefigured Lolita and the forbidden lovers' road trip across America. Did Nabokov read Highsmith, I wonder?

My only complaint is I wish it'd been more explicit, but, you know, the era.

Hard as I try, I never love anything as much as Modernist literature. Is pomo
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Maria
I should be asleep by now... I even turned off the lights! I just couldn't, though, I just couldn't stop thinking. The first word that comes to mind after reading this novel? Odd. This was my first Highsmith's book and she has quite a personal writing style. It's different... but you find yourself going with the strange flow of words. I can't believe this was written in the 50's. The ending is so... bittersweet! I am still rather lost in it... Their relationship? It just happens. I must confess ...more
Bean Delphiki
Considering how many people seem to have adored this one, I wish I could say that I even got beyond the first few chapters. But I didn't. The characters started off so flat that a steamrolled pancake might have more depth, and the book moved at the pace of a snail. When I realised that I was supposed to find a character that I would have never paid attention to in another novel "mysterious," I knew I wouldn't like this book. I read a handful of more pages anyway, but it didn't win me over.

I gave
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Bandit
If you read enough books, you're bound to become jaded once in a while by all the sub par ones out there and then a book like The Price of Salt comes along to remind you just how great a book can really be and what a reading experience should really be like. Yes, I loved this book THAT much :)
My only other experience with Highsmith's work until then has been through Ripley movies and I liked the character of Ripley, but not enough to track down the books. I picked up this book, because the cover
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Elaine Burnes
Despite the fact that the edition I purchased (through Barnes & Noble, no less) was likely pirated (check the publisher and don't buy the CreateSpace one; it has two faces on the cover), and the formatting was dreadful and full of errors, this is really a stunning story. To think that it was written in the 1950s. I haven't read a lot of lesbian fiction from that era (some Ann Bannon and other stories written later but taking place back then), but I loved the '50s vibe, the way the women dres ...more
Lord Beardsley
Patricia Highsmith fascinates me in her writing style. It's particular specifically to her, and I've never read an author quite like her in terms of style. There's always something very removed about the way she handles her characters. Very observant and always laced with a bit of cruelty.

This is a book I've been wanting to read for a long time, and read it as part of the AfterEllen book club. I'm glad I finally had an excuse to tackle it. I've read all but the very last of the Ripley books (wh
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Sarah
I can't figure out how I missed reading this when I was in college and inhaling anything with same-sex story-lines I could find. I enjoyed this immensely because it feels so acutely of a particular time and place. The reviews I have read of it fail to remind readers that the backdrop of this novel was early 1950s America as the cold war ramped up and Macarthyism was beginning to rampage through the country. Being homosexual was not only seen as a perversion and a mental illness, but you could be ...more
Joannah Rose
I'm at a loss for words. I think any word would be an understatement of how beautiful this novel is. And I loved it so much I wanted to preserve it at the chasms of my memory, for it to stay forever perfect in its imperfections. The Price of Salt, despite its slow and tugging points, is a remarkable, satiating and long foreplay I didn't want to end. I wanted to linger on each and every page, to read and re-read its lines, to play the scenes repeatedly in my head. It wasn't exactly the most perfe ...more
Elaine
Dec 12, 2011 Elaine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
The first half is a bit slow, and odd in a very Highsmithian way. The 2nd half rushes along, sings, in fact - a sexy love story that also has the patented Highsmith themes of menace and suspense. What a brave bold book to have written in 1952. At one point, I was waiting for a suicidal gesture from one of the female protagonists -- because as Highsmith points out in her afterword written in 1989, that's what literature did to gay characters in that era. But Highsmith doesn't play that game. She ...more
Evan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Darlene
Aug 22, 2012 Darlene rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Darlene by: lesbian readers
As usual, I feel beneath those who classified this as classic. Once again I feel classic means no spirit, no passion, just a bunch of words to help the reader feel the pain of the author, or characters. Ok, I didn't finish but I felt 50% of the book was more than enough time for me to care about something.

First, I don't believe in the main character who calls herself a New Yorker yet says very little. Not in my experience. And she says she's in love with the other woman but has never asked that
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Laura
From BBC Radio 4 - 15 Minute Drama:
A tender and unsettling love story about two women - one of them married, and the other nineteen - who risk everything to be together.

Written by Patricia Highsmith, who is best-known as one of the twentieth century's most accomplished thriller-writers - a role she assumed overnight when Alfred Hitchcock turned her sublimely disturbing first novel, Strangers On A Train, into a hit movie in 1951.

Written a year later, Carol broke all the rules for the portrayal of
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Jasmine
Starts off really slow and is actually incredibly boring for the first two-thirds of the book, which surprised me because of its high acclaim from other GR readers and critics.

I was quite disappointed with the sluggish writing style, because I feel like it could have been a much more exciting story, had somebody assisted with the editing.
Ivan
In 1952 Patricia Highsmith composed this personal and revelatory classic. Harper & Bros, publisher of Highsmith's "Strangers on a Train," refused to issue this novel due to its controversial subject matter. The powers that be convinced Highmsith that publishing under her own name would adversely impact her career the way Gore Vidal's had initially been by "The City and the Pillar." The Naiad Press out of Tallahassee, Florida published this volume under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. Ironically ...more
Chris
I have mixed feelings about this book by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote the Ripley series, as well as Strangers on a Train which Hitchbock turned into a film. The book is a landmark because it was one of the first to have a (fairly) happy ending for its main protagonists - a lesbian couple. However, the book is a sluggish read, very much a melodrama of the 1950s. The characters are stiff and formal and the reader isn't able to make much of a connection. There is no joking in this novel! The ...more
Andy
May 13, 2010 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: romantics
Shelves: gay-lesbian
Brilliant romance novel about a young, dark Bohemian girl falling for an iceberg blonde suburbanite. Although written over sixty years ago, this lesbian love story never feels exploitative and lurid. You'll even find yourself falling for Carol, the Grace Kelly from Hell, because she transcends any gay stereotype. It's a true testament to Patricia Highsmith's genius this lesbian love story can be enjoyed by straights too because it's a classic romance novel.
Jennifer
In The Price of Salt, we meet Therese, a young woman floating aimlessly through the relationships in her life, involved with a man who adores her yet for whom she feels only fleeting affection. She is trying to break into the world of theatre so that she can gain experience as a stage designer, which speaks volumes about her preference for controlled artifice, creating the world in which she lives with people acting out their parts.

While working at a department store during the Christmas rush, s
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Caseythecanadianlesbrarian
I read Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt soon after finishing Ann Bannon’s lesbian pulp novel Odd Girl Out (1957), so I was understandably feeling jaded and a bit guarded. Bannon’s novel, for those of you who haven’t read it, ends quite depressingly when one of the two lovers, Beth, decides that lesbianism was a mere phase for her—caused by a lack of love when she was a child, surprise surprise—and the protagonist Laura is left alone to go to New York city, where hopefully she’ll ...more
Paula
Damn. This time I'm gonna wait a few days to write a coherent review.
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So apparently I waited more than just a few days to write a review lol. But the good thing is that I just finished re-reading it, my own copy that (thank god) was available in the local bookshop and I had to buy it.

Carol, Carol, Carol. To start I'm gonna say that I was not remotely familiar with Patricia Highsmith. I had watched Strangers on a train and loved it, and heard of Mr. Ripley movies but I outrageously didn't know
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Tabatha
It was brutal to read this book. It was as if I was seeing the world through Therese's eyes...Never knowing if Carol truly loved her until the very end. I felt myself wracked with emotions, from happniess to sadness; all the feelings that make up what it means to love. I feared at times I would hate this book, but as I reached the end, I found that it's probably one of my most favorites. I only put it down once to sleep, then I returned to complete it as I awakened. I love it because it makes yo ...more
Megan
this book is masterful! why have i ignored patricia highsmith all my life? in this novel highsmith (who published it first under a pseudonym) is terrific at communicating the protagonist's youth and burgeoning emotional maturity. gorgeous prose. yes, can see where nabokov plucked inspiration from this for lolita. and the lady lovers don't die! though there is a gun!
thanks leeyanne for handing this one off to me. i loved reading it in the time of year (christmas and january) in which most of the
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Mel
OMG this book had the DULLEST LESBIANS EVER!!! I have read a lot of early queer pulp and normally I love them for their honesty and the raw emotion they present. Here there was none of that, everything just felt like it was being written about behind a veil. There was none of the soul searching and the camaraderie that is found in other lesbian pulps. The writing style did nothing for me either, I felt it was very dry. I almost felt like someone had described being in a queer relationship to Pat ...more
Carol
This author is usually so very good with dialogue but this book's dialogue was rather dull for the most part. I liked it when considering the time-period it was written in especially realizing it was limited by the tight parameters of lesbian relationships during that time frame. It seems, though, the author had a difficult time really putting her characters "out" there and, as a result, they didn't seem to come to fruition at any point. There is not a full unraveling of anyone and, for me, the ...more
Sean Meriwether
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe
The Price of Salt is a milestone that still stands alone in its greatness. It was the first "lesbian romance" by a major writer, supposedly the first such book with a "happy ending," though the ending is in fact ambiguous. In a way, though, calling The Price of Salt a lesbian romance is like calling Moby Dick a book about whaling. Lesbianism is integral to it, and Highsmith treats the topic with enormous sensitivity and respect. But the great thing about The Price of Salt, what puts it in the ra ...more
Iza Moreau
When you are riding a dressage test, every step is important. You train hard to achieve perfection in each gait, each movement. But even at the highest levels of the sport, there will probably be glitches--a little bobble in the walk-canter transition, a misstep in the canter pirouette, a flying change that is late behind.

That's how I felt about this book. It was an incredible ride almost up until the end, then a glitch, a bobble, and a halt-salute that wasn't quite square.

Regardless, this story
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AfterEllen.com Bo...: The Price of Salt. 16 136 Mar 28, 2013 04:37PM  
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Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist who is known mainly for her psychological crime thrillers which have led to more than two dozen film adaptations over the years.

She lived with her grandmother, mother and later step-father (her mother divorced her natural father six months before 'Patsy' was born and married Stanley Highsmith) in Fort Worth before moving with her parents to New York in
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More about Patricia Highsmith...
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ripley, #1) Strangers on a Train Ripley's Game (Ripley, #3) Ripley Under Ground (Ripley, #2) The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's Game

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“I feel I stand in a desert with my hands outstretched, and you are raining down upon me.” 1048 likes
“But there was not a moment when she did not see Carol in her mind, and all she saw, she seemed to see through Carol. That evening, the dark flat streets of New York, the tomorrow of work, the milk bottle dropped and broken in her sink, became unimportant. She flung herself on her bed and drew a line with a pencil on a piece of paper. And another line, carefully, and another. A world was born around her, like a bright forest with a million shimmering leaves.” 30 likes
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