Released this weekend, Carol is one of the most amazing films ever - and if you haven't read the book, you're in for a treat
Forget the fact that the film drips with 50s glamour (and we want Cate Blanchett’s entire wardrobe – okay, if it was fake fur), Carol looks set to be a hit when it’s released this weekend. Critics are already talking about Ms B’s ‘Oscar-worthy’ performance. And, just announced, the film leads the way in next year’s Independent Spirit Awards with six (yep, six) nominations. So far, so Hollywood, but did you know that it’s based on a book that was originally published under a pseudonym, because the married-woman-lesbian-romance plot was considered too risky.
The writer was thriller queen Patricia Highsmith, who’d just had huge success in 1950 with Strangers On A Train (made into a Hitchcock film).
When Highsmith had completed Carol in 1952, her publisher (Harper) declined the book because of the subject matter. It was eventually published under a smaller press (and with a pseudonym, Claire Morgan, to ‘protect’ her reputation). Despite the fact that neither a big-name author nor mainstream publisher was associated with it, Carol went on to sell almost one million copies in the US.
Crime writer, Val McDermid, sums up just why this book was unique: ‘The real significance of Carol is that it was the first serious work of literature with lesbian protagonists that didn’t end with suicide, despair or a cure thanks to the love of a good man.’
If you haven’t read it, do – it manages to be an incredibly romantic love story and a very tense drama at the same time.
Highsmith wrote suspense like nobody else – a few years later she created Tom Ripley, who went on to have several adventures, the first being in The Talented Mr Ripley (1955). This was adapted into an Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning film more than 40 years later, and was as compelling as the original book.
Film starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Matt Damon.
Here are two other Highsmith titles worth exploring, that have also been adapted for film.
The Two Faces of January: the story of alcoholic conman (don’t you love him already?) MacFarland and his young wife Colette. They’re ‘travelling’ through Europe, trying to get away from a tricky situation, when they meet Rydal, a drifter looking for adventure. A cat-and-mouse game set against Athens and Paris.
Film starring: Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst.
The Cry Of The Owl: Robert, just divorced, becomes obsessed with a young woman called Jenny. He spies on her through her kitchen window then, one night, she invites him in. This isn’t what you think – Jenny isn’t your usual ‘woman who’s stalked’ in fiction and, in fact, it takes a turn you really wouldn’t expect. (Nah – not that, either.)
Film starring: Julia Stiles and Paddy Considine.