I found Highsmith's work is like an attractive person in unattractive outfits, the more you know this person, the more you find his/her irresistible charm. Usually I had to keep reading her books until quite late to find that "impossible to put down" feeling, and Price of Salt is especially the case. The first 10% doesn't even seem relevant to the story. I actually read 5% last year and quit. This time I decided to just "have a taste", ignore her "unattractive outfit" (yes, I skipped over lots of details), then, I found something that not only need to be tasted, but to be chewed, swallowed and digested.
The story is about a 19 year-old girl Therese, who come from a complicated family, a "newbie" in adult life and romance, falls in love with Carol, a woman who is over 10 years her senior, who is experienced, sophisticated and goddess-like. The beginning of book is very slow, but story picks its pace when Carol enters the scene. How they know each other and starts dating, how they fall in love, and how their love develops is totally absorbing (I had to go through that pain and sweetness all over again!). And the ending - what an unexpected sublimation!
Though the book is above love between two women, it really is about human passion in general - the intensity and vulnerability of it; the bittersweetness of it; and the rebirth after the pain. The forbidden part certainly adds extra spices to it. Highsmith's writing style is plain, masculine, even painfully meticulous sometime. I often found myself impatient in dealing with some details she engaged into (maybe just me!), however, when she wrote the emotion, the affection of the main character Therese (who I believe is based on author herself), I found I did not want to skip one word, because her plain style makes each word weighs like a mountain!
The movie based on this book - "Carol" will be out this year (2015). I am so glad another masterpiece of hers going to screen, because Highsmith really deserve better!