A piece by Ziyan Chow


One might be reminded of Christmas Carols upon coming across the book, but the title refers to the love interest of the main character, Carol Aird.

Regardless of whether one has heard of this author, Patricia Highsmith is famous for her psychological thrillers in the 1950s. One of them, Carol, initially known as The Price of Salt, was first published in the 1950s under the pseudonym “Claire Morgan”.

The book was Highsmith’s first work revolving on the topic of same-sex relationships.

Set in New York during the 1950s, the book tells the story of the lonely Therese Belivet, who aspires to be a theater set designer. Being with a man she does not love, she finds herself infatuated with Carol, an attractive blond in her early 30s at the toy department store Therese works at.

While Carol may seem to be a happily married woman with an adorable daughter, she is actually in the midst of going through a divorce with her husband, Harge, and the impending separation from her child. Like Therese, Carol finds herself alone.

As time goes by, the strong attachment Therese develops after spending time with Carol turns into something even more which then leads to several complications when Harge secretly hires a private investigator to gain evidence to prove Carol’s sexuality, which could lead to permanent consequences involving Carol’s custody of her daughter.

Will they end up together? We, as readers may find ourselves asking that same burning question at the turn of each page.

I enjoyed the flow of the story that followed a slow pace. The variety of emotions and conflicts that occur between Therese and Carol kept me engaged and curious about the couple’s fate.

Carol is narrated from Therese’s point of view, presenting readers with an intimate understanding of the main character’s development. It can be seen in how much Therese matured from the time she met Carol until the ending. From this, I was able to immerse myself into Therese’s mind through her many encounters and scenarios, as she grows to understand same-sex love and relationships. It is difficult to not be captivated by her introverted persona throughout all of this.

One unique phrase that has been pinned onto my mind is: “Flung out of space” – which Carol says to Therese in how she captivates Carol in a way she had never expected to be.

Carol leaves you with a warm and tingling sensation due to author Patricia Highsmith’s talent in delivering the character’s strong emotions through words, and the use of her real life experiences and inspirations that got her to create this sensational book.

As much as I find this book a personal favorite, I wish readers got to see more of Carol’s point of view as well, especially during the emotional struggle of holding onto Therese while fighting for her daughter.

Nonetheless, it is recommended for a slow and warm romance read for those seeking an old fashioned love story between two people who happen to fall in love unexpectedly.

Note: Carol has also been adapted into a film in 2015 starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, directed by Todd Haynes.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Carol by Patricia Highsmith

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