THE STATE OF AFFAIRS: Fictional Adultery Through the Ages

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel is blazing up the bestseller charts. A psychotherapist who has written and spoken widely on relationships (with over 10 million TED Talk views), Perel contends that infidelity is America’s most controversial topic. It’s certainly one that has informed some of our most captivating literature, and readers wondering how far our views on the topic have evolved may appreciate the following titles, listed by date published, linked to their Booklist reviews when available.


The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)


Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert (1856)


Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy (1877)


The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham (1925)


Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence (1928)


The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain (1934)


The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene (1951)


Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata (1957)


Couples, by John Updike (1968)


Heat and Dust, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1975)


Wifey, by Judy Blume (1978)


The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe (1987)


 Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow (1987)


The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller (1992)


Jazz, by Toni Morrison (1992)


The First Wives Club, by Olivia Goldsmith (1992)


The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans (1995)


 Disobedience, by Jane Hamilton (2000)


 The Silent Wife, by A. S. A. Harrison (2013)


 Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett (2016)

About the Author:

Karen Kleckner Keefe is the director of the Hinsdale (IL) Public Library, a Booklist reviewer, and one of Library Journal's 2009 "Movers and Shakers." Follow her on Twitter at @KarenKleckner.

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