Couples by John Updike
Couples
John Updike

Crimes of passion, adultery, extra-marital activities, cuckoldry - call it what you will but there's no denying that illicit affairs and infidelity is a prevalent theme in literature. The way that authors portray marital unfaithfulness extends from the predictable unhappily married couples to love triangles and the murderous plotting of injured spouses.

Some of the most famous stories ever written are centered on the theme of unhappy people struggling to find love at whatever cost. An excellent example of this popular storyline is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy which is considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written. The story focuses on Anna, the married aristocrat and socialite, and her affair with Count Vronsky. Anna eventually moves away with Vronsky but becomes increasingly paranoid about his imagined infidelity and eventually she takes her life. Madame Bovary, The Great Gatsby, Lady Chatterley's Lover all involve characters who participate in illicit affairs and extra-marital activities.

Shakespeare, a master of storytelling, brilliantly weaves a tale of implied deceit, cheating and affairs in Othello but not all is what it seems. Although the entirety of the story is about cheating and jealousy, it appears that none of the characters ever do cheat and the outcome is disastrous for all.

Mostly scandalous, sometimes shocking and always entertaining, this selection of fictional lovers and cheats shows the course of true love never did run smooth.

See the Scandalous Stories

Natalie Natalia by Nicholas Mosley
Natalie Natalia
by Nicholas Mosley

An aging politician on the brink of insanity conducts an affair.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome
by Edith Wharton

A poor farmer is involved in a love triangle with a relation of his ailing wife.
A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch
A Severed Head
by Iris Murdoch

A smug husband has a wife and a mistress but things turn sour.
Talking It Over by Julian Barnes
Talking It Over
by Julian Barnes

A contemporary love triangle, in which the three characters take turns talking to the reader.
WaitingbyHa Jin
Waiting
by Ha Jin

An army doctor waits 18 years to divorce his wife to marry his true love.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
The End of the Affair
by Graham Greene

A passionate love affair ends suddenly when the woman calls it off.
The 158-Pound Marriage by John Irving
The 158-Pound Marriage
by John Irving

Two couples swap partners with disastrous consequences.
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
The Painted Veil
by W. Somerset Maugham

Set in colonial China, depicting superficial, adulterous relationships.
The Girl at the Lion d'Or by Sebastain Faulks
The Girl at the Lion d'Or
by Sebastain Faulks

An adulterous love-affair occurs between the book's two central characters.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Milan Kundera

A woman is tortured by her husband's infidelities with multiple women.
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates

A 1950's marriage falls apart when the couple stray.
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Shipping News
by Annie Proulx

A family torn apart by the cheating wife moves to Newfoundland to rebuild their lives.
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
A Spot of Bother
by Mark Haddon

This book has it all: a dysfunctional family, a cheating wife and a mentally unstable father.
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
The Good Soldier
by Ford Madox Ford

Nothing is as it seems when two couples carry on numerous affairs which lead to disasterous outcomes.
Lucy Crown by Irwin Shaw
Lucy Crown
by Irwin Shaw

Marriage goes down the tubes when son discovers mom in bed with someone other than daddy.
Little Children by Tom Perrotta
Little Children
by Tom Perrotta

Bored suburbanites unhappy with their lives conduct illicit love affairs.
A Live Coal in the Sea by Madeleine L'Engle
A Live Coal in the Sea
by Madeleine L'Engle

A multigenerational mystery stemming from grandma's adulterous life.
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
The Pilot's Wife
by Anita Shreve

Following his plane crash, the pilot's wife discovers her husband was leading a double life.
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
The Postman Always Rings Twice
by James M. Cain

Things go from bad to good to bad when the wife and her lover plan to kill her husband.
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Rabbit, Run
by John Updike

Feeling trapped by life and a failing marriage, Rabbit runs to the arms of another woman.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A woman is cast out from her community and forced to wear a letter "A" to mark her crime of adultery.
A Ship Made of Paper by Scott Spencer
A Ship Made of Paper
by Scott Spencer

A story where the man is willing to throw away everything including his wife for the woman of his dreams.
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
The Slap
by Christos Tsiolkas

A badly behaved boy gets slapped and neighbors have extra-marital sex.
South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
South of the Border, West of the Sun
by Haruki Murakami

A man is forced to choose between his wife and family or attempt to recapture the love from his past.
Malice Afterthought by Frances Iles
Malice Afterthought
by Frances Iles

A doctor slowly poisons wife so he can be with the woman he loves.

 

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