“Carol was like a secret…”
Carol, the film starring Cate Blanchett (pictured), which details a lesbian love affair in the early 1950s, has won praise from all quarters (the feather in its cap surely being our own Film Of The Month slot in the October issue), but its source material, Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Price of Salt, is a minor masterpiece in its own right.
Of course, there was plenty of lesbian fiction around in the 1950s if you knew where to look, but it went under titles such as Odd Girl, Her Private Hell and The Strange Path, and came luridly packaged with the women on the covers cavorting around on dishevelled beds while showing off an impressive array of frilly underwear.
By and large, these publications were aimed at men. Patricia Highsmith’s The Price Of Salt was a different matter entirely. (The title alone – surely the least pulpy name for a novel ever – would have been enough to put off the grubby mac brigade.) Highsmith scored a huge success with her first novel, Strangers On A Train - and would go on to write hits such as The Talented Mr. Ripley - and she brought the same literary sensibilities to this account of a love affair as she did to those thrillers, eloquently lifting the characters from mere stereotypes.
Sensual, unapologetic, and, yes, imbued with an increasing air of suspense (Highsmith was an expert in ratcheting up the psychological stuff), The Price Of Salt isn’t great lesbian fiction - it’s just great fiction.The Price Of Salt was re-issued this year by Dover Publications.