For nineteen year-old Therese Belivet, a chance encounter with beautiful, mysterious Carol Aird changes her life, as she comes to realise that she is in love.
Almost all of Patricia Highsmith’s novels have been adapted at this point, and for good reason, because before all the Gone Girls of this world, Highsmith created intriguing anti-heroes you couldn’t help but root for, and staged crimes in some of Europe’s most beautiful sun-drenched countries. As Patricia Highsmith established a strong reputation as writer of psychological thrillers but also as cold, unfriendly person, Carol is not a book many would readily associate with its author, as it does not showcase any urgency, or indeed much of a plot at all, but remains firmly a literary study of love.
Much like Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, which was adapted by Tom Ford and sees Colin Firth give one of his finest performances, Carol is a particularly interesting novel to contrast with its eventual adaptation. It dives much deeper into the characters, making much of literature’s unique ability to describe feelings through metaphors. It describes Therese’s motivations, her relationships and aspirations, but you can distinctly feel when director Todd Haynes reigned in book at certain points to give it any semblance of a tale with a beginning and an end.
Yet one has to remember that this is not a plot-driven book. It is easy to put down and easy to pick back up, a study of first love that does not take special note of the fact that the two people described are women. It is refreshingly modern in that regard, but it can become heavy, slowing down to an absolute crawl in parts.
It is however, a book of which there aren’t many others, so for all the reasons it may initially grab someone’s interest, the subject matter, the film adaptation, it being so different from Higsmith’s usual books, it will be a rewarding read.
Tender but slow, Carol is a literary effort that is a thorough study of love to some, or simply too much to others.
Release Date: 1952