Carol is haunting, evocative and moving. Its tension builds up slowly but surely until its satisfying conclusion. Originally published in the 1950s as The Price of Salt, the latest release of Patricia Highsmith’s once controversial novel coincides with the movie starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
Therese is a budding set designer in 1950s New York who takes a boring, casual job as a sales assistant in the toy section of a Manhattan department store during the lead-up to Christmas. With no family and in a relationship with a man she doesn’t love, Therese’s life changes when a beautiful, sophisticated woman arrives at the store to buy a gift for her daughter.
The soon-to-be-divorced Carol and Therese strike up an intense friendship that turns into something deeply romantic. But this is 1950s America and gay relationships among women are not accepted by society. They try to repress their simmering passions but soon their whole worlds are threatened.
Therese, 19, bored and lonely, becomes obsessed by Carol. But the blonde and frosty Carol has much more to lose than Therese – she is older and wealthy, with an estranged husband who is threatening to seek sole custody of Carol’s only daughter. She tries to escape it all by taking Therese on a road-trip through America where they relax enough to reveal their love for each other. But when they find that they’re being followed, Carol knows her husband is on their case and there is way too much at stake.
Patricia Highsmith is a writer best known for her psychological thrillers including The Talented Mr Ripley. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, brought her fame when made into a memorable movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Her second novel Carol was originally published in 1952 with the title The Price of Salt and under an pseudonym after her own publishers rejected it on account of its subject matter.
When it was published in 1989 as Carol under her own name, Highsmith wrote an afterword explaining some of the reasons the book was rejected at the time: “Those were the days when gay bars were a dark door somewhere in Manhattan, where people wanting to go to a certain bar got off the subway a station before or after the convenient one, lest they were suspected of being homosexual.” Now published again in a different time, and with a major movie to accompany it, Carol is finally destined for the recognition it deserves.