LGBTQ Book Review: The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

The text reads as follows. LGBTQ Book Review. The Price of Salt. By Patricia Highsmith.

Welcome to another LGBTQ book review! All reviews touch on genre/plot, tropes (if any), quality of LGBTQ content, and avoid most spoilers. Catch up on my last book review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You can find all LGBTQ book reviews here.

The Price of Salt is shelved on my “Sapphic Main Characters” Bookshop list. Purchases from my Bookshop lists benefit independent bookstores (sorry not sorry, Amazon!) I also earn a commission from Bookshop affiliate links in this post. Support your local independent bookstore (and your favorite queer blogger!) when you buy your copy of Carol.

LGBTQ Book, The Price of Salt: Light spoilers


Serving as a basis for the 2015 film adaptation, Carol, The Price of Salt follows aspiring set designer, Therese in 1950’s New York as she becomes infatuated with an older and distinguished woman, Carol. The two bond quickly, deeply, and contextually, as this sapphic novel’s profoundly inward love story matches the queer subtleties we’d expect from the 50s.


Therese and Carol fall in love with each other, and in a conversation between them, Carol describes her past relationship with her friend, Abby. Both Carol and Therese are with men throughout the majority of the book, but the book implies a lack of feelings for the men in their lives.

LGBTQ content assessment

Though the storytelling and actual events and shared romantic moments between Therese and Carol are limited, the novel is explicitly queer. Told from Therese’s third-person point-of-view, the book shares her intense feelings for Carol throughout without delving very much into internalized homophobia. Therese’s thoughts and feelings are cloudy and blocked from being clear to herself through most of the book due to an implied heteronormativity, but not in a way that readers are forced to directly confront. Instead, Therese’s thoughts circle around the answer (I’m in love with Carol in a gay way) over and over again.

LGBTQ Book, The Price of Salt Rating: Spoilers Ahead

First, I’ll come forward by saying that I’m a huge fan of Carol as a film. I count it as my favorite movie 90% of the time, and while doing my undergrad degree in film, I used Carol in reports and analyses as often as possible. That being said, I’d been a little worried that the book wouldn’t live up to my love for the film, and that with a copyright mark in 1952, I wouldn’t be able to get passed the language or writing style to enjoy it. I am extremely happy to report that none of these worries came to fruition–The Price of Salt is the best book I’ve read this year.

The story’s narration of Therese’s inner thoughts made it unable for me to put this book down. Her story embodies a near-universal sapphic experience: falling in love with a woman without realizing you fell in love with a woman. Heightened by downright painful anxieties around Carol because of her strong feelings, parts of the book hurt to read. Therese’s whole world shifted–likely to unhealthy lengths–that any move Carol made affected her inwardly without her really understanding why.

Of course, not every sapphic’s experience is the same, but I related so much to how Therese discovered her identity that it was a painful and healing read. And the best part is that the book never really addressed it directly, but the queerness of the story still came through very explicitly. No one would be able to mistake this story for an intense friendship, but the characters–and even Therese’s inner thoughts–didn’t need to discuss what it meant to be gay or how to grow into that identity. The book handled queerness so close to the heart and so deeply personal that struck me as the most authentic sapphic read I’ve ever come across.

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