23 hours ago
Patricia Highsmith’s story of sexual obsession may be one of the most important, but still largely unrecognized, novels of the twentieth century. First published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan and touted as “the novel of a love society forbids,” the book soon became a lesbian cult classic. Yet it was always relegated to a mystery subgenre and never before given the literary recognition that it is now receiving. Based on a true story plucked from Highsmith’s own life,The Price of Salt tells the riveting story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department store day job, whose routine is forever shattered by the appearance of Carol Aird, a customer who comes in to buy her daughter a Christmas toy. Therese begins to stalk the alluring suburban housewife, who is trapped in a marriage as stultifying as Therese’s job. They fall in love and set out across the United States, pursued by a private investigator who eventually blackmails Carol into a choice between her daughter and her lover.I was curious about how a novel written in 1952 would handle a topic that was such a taboo at that time, and I fully expected that the story would feel dated and somewhat awkward, given the time that has passed since it was written. However, the only things that dated the story were the actual details that placed it in the 1950's: the use of telephones (through an operator) and telegrams, the prices of things and amounts of money spent ($20 for a speeding ticket; $1 a day for a room in a boarding house), and the attitude of some of the characters (Carol's husband and Therese's boyfriend) towards a romantic relationship between two women as something "sordid and pathological".