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Old 09-12-2018, 04:16 AM   #1
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The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

'Patricia Highsmith's story of romantic obsession may be one of the most important, but still largely unrecognized, novels of the twentieth century. First published in 1952 and touted as "the novel of a love that society forbids," the book soon became a cult classic.

Based on a true story plucked from Highsmith's own life, Carol tells the riveting drama of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose routine is forever shattered by a gorgeous epiphany—the appearance of Carol Aird, a customer who comes in to buy her daughter a Christmas toy. Therese begins to gravitate toward the alluring suburban housewife, who is trapped in a marriage as stultifying as Therese's job...'


Also published with the title Carol, and also published with the authorial pseudonym Claire Morgan

Goodreads


We're trying something new - discussion sections - as an encouragement to keep those reading on more of a similar timeline to foster more discussion. These are only softly recommended however and not required at all. Anyone can discuss any part or aspect of the selection at any time. We do ask that if you want to discuss something pertaining to a later section earlier that you put it in spoiler quotes, but if you happen to not then that's fine too.

Recommended discussion timeframe:

~073 pages, In 00 days, around Wednesday the 12th of September, the first quarter

~146 pages, In 07 days, around Wednesday the 19th of September, half

~219 pages, In 14 days, around Wednesday the 26th of September, three quarters

~292 pages, In 21 days, around Wednesday the 3rd of October, the entire selection


This is the MR Literary Club selection for September 2018. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!


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Old 09-17-2018, 03:56 PM   #2
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Im a few chapters in so far. It's definitely giving me a very good 'picture' of mid-century NYC. It's odd, the film never made me think of this, but the book makes me think of the series 'Are You Being Served?', perhaps because the beginning goes into more detail about Therese's department store job. A few decades are off and there's different continents, but this career salespeople in a large department store vibe is similar, and the early scene in the store dining room reminds me of the episodes of Are You Being Served? when they eat in the dining room. Also, though a decade off too, Inside Llewyn Davis came to mind when Therese and Richard meet the other two men one of whom may get her a job. Just that feeling of poorer, artsy, even edgy NYC in a still very conservative but changing post-world-wars time, and in that vein I guess there's also Breakfast at Tiffany's to throw in the mix.

One thing I found very interesting for a book from the 1950s, though much less so considering the subject matter, is when it's mentioned that many little girls come to see the dolls and pick out their favourite, and also very rarely some little boys. It was just a throwaway line, but that Highsmith even thought to include it is remarkable to me since I think many authors wouldn't have mentioned boys with dolls at all.
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Old 09-17-2018, 04:34 PM   #3
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Patria Highsmith has herself discussed the origins of the novel. She wrote about it detail HERE for the Telegraph, but here are some highlights:

Quote:
One morning, into this chaos of noise and commerce, there walked a blondish woman in a fur coat. She drifted towards the doll counter with a look of uncertainty – should she buy a doll or something else? – and I think she was slapping a pair of gloves absently into one hand.

Perhaps I noticed her because she was alone, or because a mink coat was a rarity, and because she was blondish and seemed to give off light. With the same thoughtful air, she purchased a doll, one of two or three I had shown her, and I wrote her name and address on the receipt, because the doll was to be delivered to an adjacent state. It was a routine transaction, the woman paid and departed. But I felt odd and swimmy in the head, near to fainting, yet at the same time uplifted, as if I had seen a vision.
(Of note, Blanchett makes this motion with the gloves in the film adaptation).

Quote:
As usual, I went home after work to my apartment, where I lived alone. That evening I wrote out an idea, a plot, a story about the blondish and elegant woman in the fur coat. I wrote some eight pages in longhand in my then-current notebook or cahier.
"The woman paid and left, but I felt odd and swimmy in the head, near to fainting, as if I had seen a vision"

This was the entire story of The Price of Salt. It flowed from my pen as if from nowhere – beginning, middle and end. It took me about two hours, perhaps less.
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Old 09-17-2018, 10:10 PM   #4
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I have to finish my current book from the library before I can start this one. The book is The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong. Ironically it is described as “The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Bad Seed.” Also it is a South Korean thriller translated by Chi-Young Kim. She translated Please Look After Mom which the Lit Club read earlier this year.
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Old 09-17-2018, 10:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
I have to finish my current book from the library before I can start this one. The book is The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong. Ironically it is described as “The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Bad Seed.” Also it is a South Korean thriller translated by Chi-Young Kim. She translated Please Look After Mom which the Lit Club read earlier this year.
I read Please Look After Mom earlier this year - sorry I missed out on the discussion!
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Old 09-18-2018, 09:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astrangerhere View Post
Patria Highsmith has herself discussed the origins of the novel. She wrote about it detail HERE for the Telegraph, but here are some highlights:



(Of note, Blanchett makes this motion with the gloves in the film adaptation).
It's interesting that the book is basically a sort of fantasy crafted from a brief encounter with a mesmerising woman that she met.

I feel that Carol is also a sort of motherly figure for Therese, with Therese being (like) an orphan and younger than Carol. Although, the book mentions that Therese guesses Carol's age at around 32, but with Blanchett playing her in the film my first impression of Carol was closer to 40-ish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
I have to finish my current book from the library before I can start this one. The book is The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong. Ironically it is described as “The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Bad Seed.” Also it is a South Korean thriller translated by Chi-Young Kim. She translated Please Look After Mom which the Lit Club read earlier this year.
I'm listening to the audiobook of The Price of Salt since I'd just finished my last one, and I had to do a lot of solo travelling recently giving me time to finish up the last few hours of the previous book and start about two hours ahead on the 10-hour Highsmith.

I haven't read either The Talented Mr. Ripley or The Bad Seed, but both of those films are great so hopefully that bodes well for you for The Good Son! I hadn't thought of it until just now, but there's also definite gay undertones (or perhaps more than undertones) in film of The Talented Mr. Ripley. I'm not sure how the novel fares on that count but now I'm thinking Highsmith might have been sensitive to at least hint at varying sexualities in her various work rather than solely in The Price of Salt.

Last edited by sun surfer; 09-19-2018 at 04:26 PM. Reason: upon further reading, Therese's mother is still alive
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Old 09-21-2018, 12:28 PM   #7
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Here's the song referenced close to halfway through the book if anyone would like to listen to it:

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Old 09-21-2018, 12:52 PM   #8
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Awesome! I love Billie Holiday! I just started reading finally and have finished Chapter 1. I really like the writing style.
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Old 09-21-2018, 05:03 PM   #9
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The book is not perfect, and there are some stereotypes I am still not 100% okay with but I am always happy when people read and enjoy it.
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Old 09-29-2018, 09:52 PM   #10
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I've finished the book and quite enjoyed it, but I'm going to save my comments until after 3 October.
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Old 10-02-2018, 07:05 PM   #11
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I finished this a couple of weeks ago and while I found it an easy enough read I have since wondered why as the story line, for me, has no guts to it. Basically is just an insecure teenager (19 if I recall correctly at the start) meets older woman, lesbian relationship develops, they traipse around the country followed by a private detective, and all comes right in the end. But I found the end a bit of a mishmash.

I think I put its easy read down to the prose; simple, easy to get along with. I can't help comparing that with that in trotted out in long science fiction series, for example, of the Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, etc. type. The end chapters though, for me fell apart as it turned into a bit of a jumble; I got the feeling that the author knew how the story was going to end but could not keep the flow up, or they did not know in their plan how it was going to end and did it on the hoof, or they just wanted to wrap it up as quickly as possible and the prose got a bit disorganized. What I see as faults there are not that uncommon for me, I get that feeling when I get to the closing chapters of a number of books.

The lesbian relationship adds something to the story but is pretty low key and based on my growing up years I would have thought that anyone reaching adulthood in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, at least, would find it a bit ho-hum. The adults I knew who would have been of 1940s and 50s vintage would have too so the claim, the veracity of which I don't know, that it was a forerunner of LGBT literature may be its only claim to any sort of fame.

Given the current fashionability of LGBTandeveryotherletterofthealphabetexceptM&F topics I could see it having current appeal but it is pretty tame stuff compared to current literature so wouldn't expect it to have a big resurrection. It does have the bait of the insecure Therese finding a sexual place for herself in life, Carol's divorce adventures as a woman to sympathize with, and husband Harge for the misandrists to vent their anger on, all wrapped in easy prose.

So, for me, a so-so book, a quick and easy read with little complication, and a good filler when distracted by other things (I read it during gaps when I wanted a break from a much longer read).

Last edited by AnotherCat; 10-02-2018 at 07:08 PM.
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Old 10-04-2018, 04:24 AM   #12
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I enjoyed the book, though I also think it is a quite unremarkable story of romantic obsession. I have little doubt that had I read it in the 50's when it was originally published the Lesbian relationship would have been far more significant to me. It is reminiscent of our discussion of Never Let Me Go in the sense that astrangerhere suggested that that work could be regarded as abolitionist literature, taking a very emotional approach to portray the clones as fully human in the pursuit of abolishing the practice and of equal rights. Can this book be regarded as abolitionist type literature in relation to the discrimination against lesbian or even same sex relationships generally? I think the answer to that question is yes. Therese and Carol and their relationship was portrayed very sympathetically. I would think that it would cause an intelligent reader steeped in the conventional morals of society at that time to at least think about their views. But today, with the battle for acceptance largely won, at least in the western world, the book has for most modern readers lost the impact which lifted it above the ordinary.
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Old 10-04-2018, 05:09 AM   #13
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I read this back in February, sometime after it had been nominated (but not selected) for the New Leaf book club. Reading in a modern context there was nothing shocking, or even that surprising, about it - though I can certainly imagine it being received differently back in the 1950s.

I found it a pleasant story with well portrayed characters. The inexperienced and insecure Therese and the older and much more reserved Carol, of course, stand out. But even the minor parts I found quite convincing and succinctly painted. Same goes for the settings, each placed me there with the characters very effectively. Therese grows noticeably and believably through the story so that by the end of it the largely unchanged (to my eye) Carol actually appears quite different to Therese - and this is a good thing, the greater equality offers them better hope for the future (it seems to me).

There is not a whole lot to the story, but it's not all that long either, so I think it was well judged and constructed. I think it worked well, but I can't say that there is much in it that would attract me back to re-read it (which is largely how I judge books these days).

I have not seen the film, Carol, yet, but Cate Blanchett seems like an excellent match for Carol as seen in my eye while reading. I don't know Rooney Mara from any other productions so cannot comment on that match.


I'd love to say that the story was so far out of date that it was merely speaking of prejudices long since overwhelmed, but no one here would believe me even if I did. However, the book is no longer speaking to the same audience and that reduces the impact that it must once have had.
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Old 10-05-2018, 02:57 AM   #14
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I am so far behind this month!!! Too much traveling has taken up my time to read. I am only at 65%. In the first few chapters of the book, Therese uses words like prison, conviction, iron bars, cages, dungeon, chains, gluey. You certainly feel her loneliness and entrapment.

One of the things I noticed is the contrast between darkness and light. I particularly liked the following quote:
Quote:
The night was very black, in spite of the Christmas lights on some of the lampposts.
But then she meets Carol who has "fiery" eyes. This sentence caught my attention: "The snow was no more than a film underfoot, like thin white wool drawn across the street and sidewalk." It contrasts with when she was walking with Richard: "dirty slippery stuff, neither snow nor ice."

Lots of references to sunlight such as the first morning she wakes up at Carol's house and the morning in the hotel at the beginning of their travels. Here are some example quotes:

Quote:
I feel I am in love with you, she had written, and it should be spring. I want the sun throbbing on my head like chords of music. I think of a sun like Beethoven, a wind like Debussy, and birdcalls like Stravinsky. But the tempo is all mine.
Quote:
There were no mornings anywhere like the mornings from this window. The round bed of grass beyond the driveway had darts of sunlight in it, like scattered gold needles. There were sparks of sun in the moist hedge leaves, and the sky was a fresh solid blue.
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Old 10-05-2018, 03:22 AM   #15
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@Bookworm_Girl. A perceptive post. I think it relates to one constant theme in the Book. Therese is terrified of an ordinary life with no meaning. A grey, colourless life. Therese looks at the Department store and those around her and her own circumstances and fears ending up like Mrs Robichek She wants a life full of experiences rather than simply working to get by. She doesn't even want life with her boyfriend despite the financial security he could offer when he stopped playing with being an artist and took his place in his father's business. She wants, in short, a life with a bit of spice and flavour. If you like, with a bit of salt. Which of course Carol offered. But of course same sex relationships in the 1950's came with a heavy price, particularly for Carol.
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