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The Price of Salt

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  49,885 ratings  ·  4,343 reviews
Arguably Patricia Highsmith's finest, The Price of Salt is the story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose salvation arrives one day in the form of Carol Aird, an alluring suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce. They fall in love and set out across the United States, pursued by a private investigator who eventually blackma ...more
Paperback, 292 pages
Published March 17th 2004 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 1952)
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Brigi Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman, the Acclamation series by Vee Hoffman (warning, they contain explicit sex scenes, in case you're feeling icky ab…moreCall Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman, the Acclamation series by Vee Hoffman (warning, they contain explicit sex scenes, in case you're feeling icky about them), The Counterfeiters by Andre Gide (given that it's an older book, it's subtler). Just realised all involve couples where one half is younger, but none of these novels are YA. Hope this helped! :)(less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Catlick In the historical context of the novel, the 'pain[t]ing' might have been a nod to the existing Freudian view of the neurotic mechanisms that skewed th…moreIn the historical context of the novel, the 'pain[t]ing' might have been a nod to the existing Freudian view of the neurotic mechanisms that skewed the development of a 'normal' sexual orientation from the innate. In the absence of a loving mother figure, Therese had an idealized image of the portrait to aspire to. She perhaps internalized this image, and it became part of her attraction map, (if you will). Her attraction to Carol was no less real as a result of this, but the recognition shocked her. Highsmith was constantly exploring images and ideas of what attracts and repels: Mrs Robicheck's plump dry aging hands with their remnant red polish and cheap rings, one with a "clear green stone' versus Carol's strong hands, red lacquered nails, and clear green sapphire ring.(less)

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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  49,885 ratings  ·  4,343 reviews

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Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ok. I have Feelings about this book. And there might be some spoilery things, but no more than I was spoiled before reading 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
Glenn Sumi
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1900-1960
UPDATED, December 3, 2015: Just saw Carol, the Todd Haynes film adaptation starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Gorgeous looking, and very faithful to the book. The cinematographer captures the era beautifully, and Haynes plays a lot with windows and reflections in an effective way. Therese's profession has been changed from budding set designer to budding photographer, which works well for a visual medium. The two leads are terrific, and Mara particularly makes you understand this character ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, favorites
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
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, recs
A foreboding and atmospheric tale about love between women, The Price of Salt sensitively portrays an aspiring set designer’s coming to terms with her sexuality. Set against the backdrop of postwar repression, the story follows nineteen-year-old Therese Belivet as she abandons her quiet life as a shopgirl for a budding romance with an older, married lover, Carol Aird. The bulk of the novel’s drama arises from Carol’s fraught attempt to divorce her affluent husband, retain custody of her daughter ...more
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Salt, as defined by Merriam-Webster: “…. an ingredient that gives savor, piquancy, or zest”….; or, as it relates to this story, the price (sacrifice) these women paid to live their lives truthfully (hence, the book title, I’m guessing). I admired Highsmith’s nerve and honesty for tackling this lesbian love story in the time period when it was so obviously taboo.

Therese Belivet is a young and struggling set designer working in a department store when she meets and instantly becomes enamored with
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
‘Don’t you want to forget it, if it’s past?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t know just how you mean that.’
‘I mean, are you sorry?’
‘No. Would I do the same thing again? Yes.’
‘Do you mean with somebody else, or with her?’
‘With her,’ Therese said. The corner of her mouth went up in a smile.
‘But the end was a fiasco.’
‘Yes. I mean I’d go through the end, too.’
‘And you’re still going through it.’
Therese didn’t say anything.

Patricia Highsmith got the idea for Carol (or The Price of Salt as it was named originall
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I've tried and tried and tried to understand why people like these two characters and their story so much. I've tried to come to it with an open mind and eyes ready to see whatever it is everyone else sees. But I just cannot seem to do it. I can't read Therese as anything but a petulant child with an obsessive fixation on someone she barely knows. I don't understand the swooning over Carol when, to me, she's written so nebulously that it's almost as if she isn't even present in the novel, let al ...more
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Patricia Highsmith lives in an ugly world. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, is almost unbearably bleak. Ripley is...well, it’s a lot of things, but mainly it’s the first time someone wrote an entire series of books asking you to identify with a serial killer. But between them all, and under a fake name, she also wrote this beautiful, aching jewel of a love story. Who knew?


Not the public, not for thirty years. Astonishingly, Highsmith didn’t take credit for The Price of Salt until
Jess the Shelf-Declared Bibliophile
A puzzling start, a bit of a slow middle, and a satisfying ending. While I didn't actually connect with any of the main characters, the plot was enough to keep me going. ...more
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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THE PRICE OF SALT is an important book in the LGBT+ literary canon because it was one of the few exceptions in the sea of lesbian pulp fiction published during the 50s and 60s where neither of the heroines ended up married off, dead, or institutionalized. No matter how dull or lackluster it seems today, one can only imagine how many feathers were ruffled - especially since many of these authors were explicitly told that in order to avoid
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing


The Price of Salt, published in 1952, is considered the first book—and the only one for a very long time afterwards—to depict a lesbian relationship with a happy ending. Having just reread it, what strikes me now is how anyone, even lesbians, especially lesbians, could have thought that losing custody of your child with no visitation rights and being publicly humiliated in court and in the newspapers constituted a happy ending.

But we
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, nyc, new-york, audio, britain
Updated review: 5/30/21.

It was very daring of Patricia Highsmith to write a realistic love story between 2 women in the 1950s. It just wasn't done, at least not in public in real life nor in a novel. I appreciated the slow story and the fabulous ending all the more once I finished the novel and thought about it and the meaning of the original title, .A Price of Salt.. The title was the key to the meaning of the story for me.

(view spoiler)
Emily B
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a well written and interesting book. I have to say I preferred the second half as it was a little more fast paced and that’s when things started to happen.
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
Mark Porton
I think friendships are the result of certain needs that can be completely hidden from both people, sometimes hidden forever.

This review is a bit tricky because I don’t want to give anything away. Carol, by the sublime Patricia Highsmith did not disappoint.

The story centres around a young woman called Therese, who is a theatre set designer but currently working at a store in the crazy world of the toy department at Christmas time. Something I would have liked I reckon – hard work, but imagine t
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 14, 2021 rated it liked it
GR deleted my review I guess.

Here's a close facsimile:

Patricia Highsmith's novels all seem to have that one common happy thread running through them - psychological tension. And how well, or differently, she accomplishes it seems to vary. The Price of Salt, or Carol, is the fourth I've read by the author and I've given 4 different ratings to each.
Young Therese Belivet, enduring a dreary dead end job at a large department store has her world rocked when a beautiful older woman, Carol, catches her
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness
I wanted to read this before watching the movie ("Carol"), but I first found out about it from the fictional librarian in Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness. From the marketing of this title I could not tell if it was more of a love story or a thriller, and knowing Patricia Highsmith I held my breath through the entire book waiting for someone to turn into a sociopath.

This novel is set in the early 1950s, a time where not many women were openly involved in relationships with one another, leaving T
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven’t seen the movie Carol (based on this book) but, while reading this, I found it impossible to not see Cate Blanchett as Carol: perfect casting. I also couldn’t help thinking of the novel in cinematic terms during a tense scene in the middle of the novel, one involving a detective; empty U.S. highways; and a gun. I don’t believe Highsmith wrote her novels with films in mind, but they do seem to make good ones.

Speaking of the gun, once it was introduced, I kept thinking of Chekhov all thro
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I recently saw the movie "Carol" and when I found out it's based on a book, I was surprised I hadn't heard of it -- a lesbian classic that had escaped my attention until now. Onto the TBR list it went. At first I didn't like the writing style but quickly got used to it and didn't want to put the book down. Even knowing pretty much what happens, there are some differences to the movie... and of course the book is always better!

(2019 classic book of the month for July)
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How was it possible to be afraid and in love, Therese thought. The two things did not go together. How was it possible to be afraid, when the two of them grew stronger together every day? And every night. Every night was different, and every morning. Together they possessed a miracle.

Some of you may remember back to my review of The Book of Lost and Found when i boldly declared "barring something truly amazing coming along later this year, I am happy to declare this exceptional read my book of t
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Let's get this out of the way first: I'm only reading this book because of Cate Blanchett, and not because it's an outstanding literary work of fiction, which it is. Sorry but I'm hopelessly stuck in the 'lowly' lesbian romance genre. 8-)

Anyway, who can possibly miss all the buzz about the upcoming movie adaptation, especially one with Ms. Blanchett in it. But I remember the last time I watched an f/f movie or Tv adaptation before I read the book (Fingersmith)--the glances, the blank stares and
Karin Slaughter
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I re-read this because I saw that Cate Blanchette is going to do the movie adaptation and after screaming HOLY CRAP THAT'S AMAZING! I wanted to refresh my memory of the story. Just as fantastic as the first time. Patricia Highsmith is one of the unsung heroes of the genre. Everyone talks about Chandler et al but no one has really focussed on how amazing Highsmith was. Her contributions to the genre cannot be understated.

You never hear stories about someone wanting to re-film Double Indemnity.
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /

4 ½ stars

“My Angel,” Carol said. “Flung out of space.”

Fans of the film adaptation of Carol may find the novel to be not quite as polished or romantic. I, for one, find the novel’s elusiveness and opaqueness to be entrancing. Unlike other books by Highsmith Carol is not a thriller or a crime novel, however, it has plenty of moments of unease (dare I say even of ugliness?) that brought to mind The Talented Mr. Ripley. Therese is a somewhat disaffected you
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
I've been listening to the Price of Salt, a literary lesbian classic. The writing is spare and emotions are masked. Therese is innocence trapped within an old soul. She knows her heart and she recognizes in Carol all that has been missing from her life.

Carol is worldly and not easy to like. All that sophistication yet she is drawn to a teenage store clerk and wannabe set designer. They couldn't make an odder couple and yet. And yet. The scenes and dialogue between these too are so vibrant, so do
Jun 24, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shit, I picked a great book to start the year off with. Honestly this will probably end up being one of my favorites of the year and of ever. Maybe I actually screwed myself over because I can only see my reading going downhill from here, honestly.

I'm working on building up my ~new and improved~ BlueEyedBiblio blog (!!!!) which I'm really excited about so I won't be posting full reviews on here anymore. I'm going to leave short blurbs here and then link to my full review on my blog (once it's u
Apr 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Reading Highsmith is like a drink of ice cold water - cleansing, refreshing, and invigorating. I noticed the same thing when I read The Talented Mr. Ripley. Her prose is so spare, so clear. It keeps me focused and skipping along the page. I love it.

Published in 1952, this story was originally written under the pseudonym "Claire Morgan" because of the controversial content - the love story between two women, Therese Beliveau and the older, beautiful and mysterious Carol Aird. It's not terribly su
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Pseudonym used by Patricia Highsmith for The Price of Salt, also published under the title Carol. ...more

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“I feel I stand in a desert with my hands outstretched, and you are raining down upon me.” 1374 likes
“Do people always fall in love with things they can't have?'

'Always,' Carol said, smiling, too.”
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