The Price of Salt (later republished under the title Carol) is a 1952 romance novel by Patricia Highsmith, first published under the pseudonym "Claire Morgan".
Highsmith—known as a suspense writer based on her psychological thriller Strangers on a Train—used an alias because she did not want to be tagged as "a lesbian-book writer", and because of the use of her own life references for characters and occurrences in the story.
On an impulse, Therese sends Carol a Christmas card. Richard accuses Therese of having a "schoolgirl crush", but Therese knows it is more than that: She is in love with Carol.
Carol, who is going through a difficult separation and divorce and is herself quite lonely, unexpectedly responds. Carol's husband, Harge, is suspicious of Carol's relationship with Therese, whom he meets briefly when Therese stays over at Carol's house in New Jersey.
Carol leaves Therese alone in the Midwest and returns to New York to fight for her daughter.
The evidence for Carol's homosexuality is so strong that she capitulates to Harge without having the details of her behavior aired in court.
According to Highsmith, the novel was inspired by a blonde woman in a mink coat 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.
The Coward-Mc Cann dust jacket called it "A Modern Novel of Two Women".I wrote some eight pages in longhand in my then-current notebook or cahier.Highsmith recalled completing the book's outline in two hours that night, likely under the influence of chickenpox which she discovered she had only the next day: "fever is stimulating to the imagination." She completed the novel by 1951.Though Highsmith had many sexual and romantic relationships with women and wrote over 22 novels and numerous short stories, The Price of Salt is her only novel about an unequivocal lesbian relationship and its relatively happy ending was unprecedented in lesbian literature.It is also notable for being the only one of her novels with not only "a conventional 'happy ending Therese Belivet is a lonely young woman, just beginning her adult life in Manhattan and looking for her chance to launch her career as a theatre set designer.