Patricia Higsmith’s The Price of Salt was the famed suspense writer’s second novel after Strangers on a Train. Due to its realistic and non-judgmental portrayal of a lesbian relationship, Highsmith first put the novel out under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. Only years later was it revealed that Highsmith was the book’s author.
The two main characters in The Price of Salt are Carol and Therese. They meet at a department store Therese is working at as holiday help in the doll department. She’s a young aspiring set designer for the theater. Carol is an affluent woman about a decade older. They soon start spending time together, which puts a strain on Carol’s relationship with Harge, her husband. Therese’s boyfriend Richard is more confused than angry about why Therese is suddenly spending time with this woman that he sees as a stranger. Richard wants Therese to love him, wants her to feel like a part of his family (his mother even makes a dress for Therese) but keeps feeling indifference from Therese. Soon Carol and Therese embark on a long road trip from New York City to the Midwest and farther. (I found it amusing that Route 20 and Galena, Illinois were mentioned.) Unlike Strangers on a Train, much of The Price of Salt goes along at a casual pace, but it is an engaging story. I found out about the book from the recent movie Carol, which is based on The Price of Salt and stars Rooney Mara as Therese and Cate Blanchett as Carol. I highly recommend the movie and the book.