The Price of Salt or Carol By Patricia Highsmith or Claire Morgan (1952). A review by John Cook

the-price-of-salt

Even though the genetics of the Ripliad are present, this is a very different book. It is something of a coming-out book both in story line and in structure but with additional elements perhaps arising from ‘Strangers on a Train’. The plot is simple enough with an encouraging ending but it is the contexts, dialogue and denouement that are worth considering.

The story starts off quite slowly with interior views of Therese’ life and world (fifties Manhattan) and her developing encounter with Carol (not always a warm character) but then focuses with a very American ‘escaping’ cross-country car trip accelerating in speed, plot interest and emotional development against significant backgrounds. The lead-in to the emerging PI story was a little clunky but served to underline the irony of what was being secretly investigated. I enjoyed the interaction between Carol and the PI and her attempt to ‘buy’ her way out, much as she had done in the past. While she did so for herself and Therese, it is a pointer to the root problem in her relationship with Therese.

The final scenes of break-up, realisation of new emotional maturity and (perhaps) reconciliation were well done with well-controlled emotional intensity. While there is none of the later trademark violence and sociopathy, her spare and distanced dialogue and settings are often present. Perhaps this can be traced to her comic book and short story ‘potboiler’ years.

I have read that a film adaptation titled ‘Carol’, directed by John Crowley and starring Cate Blanchett and Mia Wasikowska, was scheduled to shoot in February 2013 in London and New York.

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