The Price of Salt

The Price of Salt - Patricia Highsmith 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 the very understated British performances left me cold--it was only after I read the book that I realized what the characters were supposed to be feeling at various points in the story. So, book first before movie.

The book is from the point of view of Therese, a 19-year old budding set designer who starts the book moonlighting as a department store saleslady. A chance meeting with a striking woman customer--over the proverbial 'exchange of looks'--sparks what appears to be an obsession for Therese. She is delighted when the interest seems mutual. But the mysterious, alluring Carol is married and has a child. And how does she explain this sudden infatuation with a woman, when Therese has a boyfriend and male admirers in the wings and neither Carol nor Therese herself fit Therese's idea of a lesbian. It's the 1950s so one can just imagine Therese's confusion.

The author's prose is incredibly powerful and evocative. From the first few Chapters where Therese feels trapped in her hopeless situation, to the confusion brought about by the tingling sensation of Carol's mere presence, to the exhilarating freedom of the road trip, her despair at Carol's domestic problems, to her growing maturity at the end...all vividly portrayed by Ms. Highsmith's powerful imagery. She is a master at 'showing', never needing to 'tell' us how her characters are supposed to be feeling. Roonee Mara who plays Therese, has her work cut out for her. :)

The Price of Salt comes across to me as a bit uneven. The best scenes are of course, every time Carol and Therese interact. They sizzle. Well, Carol does mostly. Since Therese behaved more like a love-struck puppy. The rest of the time, I was just a tad bored and couldn't wait to get to their next encounter. This is due, no doubt, to my over-indulgence in genre romance. :) The rest of the book chronicles Therese's life away from Carol--her claustrophobic existence pre-Carol, her attempts to understand her sexuality (in 1950s style), and post-Carol development as she grows from eager-to-please, compliant admirer and finally comes into her own as Carol's equal.

Rating: 4 stars for enjoyment, 5 stars for the writing