The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The beginning of The Price of Salt didn't appeal to me and nearly kept me from reading on. Therese seemed a shallow character. Her relationship with Mrs. Robichek was odd and, after she accepted an invitation to the woman's home she responded in a way that was quite rude. On top of that she has a relationship with Richard that is one sided. She doesn't lie about it, but she does take advantage of what he has to offer. I didn't think I wanted to spend hours reading about this woman. But the strength of this novel is in the way Therese matures. She has to discover how to feel and act while dealing with same sex desires during an era when they are condemned. I love the fact that this book wasn't just set in the fifties, it was written back then. Reading it at a time when the acceptance of same sex couples has become a civil rights issue makes it very powerful.
The book is written from the point of view of Therese, so all the characters are filtered through her perspective. Patricia Highsmith made her a sensitive character who pays attention to detail. Here's a sample:
The young man slid all the bundles across the counter, and took Carol's twenty-dollar bill. And Therese thought of Mrs. Robicheck tremulously pushing her single dollar bill and a quarter across the counter that evening.
Later, in the car, Carol asked her about Mrs. Robichek, and Therese answered as she always did, succinctly, and with the involuntary and absolute honesty that always depressed her afterward.
In both these short descriptions we learn something about Therese, something about Carol, and something about Mrs. Robicheck.
The Price of Salt is very well written. I wasn't hooked at first, but once it got going I couldn't put it down. I'm looking forward to seeing the film.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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