Couples: A Novel

One of the signature novels of the American 1960s, Couples is a book that, when it debuted, scandalized the public with prose pictures of the way people live, and that today provides an engrossing epitaph to the short, happy life of the “post-Pill paradise.” It chronicles the interactions of ten young married couples in a seaside New England community who make a cult of sex and of themselves. The group of acquaintances form a magical circle, complete with ritualistic games, religious substitutions, a priest (Freddy Thorne), and a scapegoat (Piet Hanema). As with most American utopias, this one’s existence is brief and unsustainable, but the “imaginative quest” that inspires its creation is eternal.

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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Write, Publish, Promote. Words I am learning to live by. Want this to be your motto too? Join me and together we'll navigate the path to publishing success.

3 Comments

  1. The Dissatisfactions of Marriage (4.3*s) Set in fictional Tarbox, MA in the early 1960’s, this book of 1968 was certainly a risqu’ and revealing look at marriage in a small suburban community at a time of increasing sexual awareness and openness. Looking back, the sexual content is actually rather mild, but, more importantly, it seems that the type of communities and lifestyles that Updike describe have been swallowed up by vast, numbing suburbs, where traffic is terrible, wives work, and neighbors are strangers. 

  2. Love thy neighbor Updike’s portrait of the upper middle class in a sleepy Boston suburb in 1963 when people actually had more time than they knew what to do with seems almost as distant and foreign to our overworked present as Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age. Set on the eve of the sexual revolution, the novel explores a circle of couples who nearly devour each other out of jealousy, lust and boredom. Yet, the book is not without its tender sides, as Updike manages some hard-won sympathy for his protagonist Piet Hanema,…

  3. Take their wives, please I don’t think anyone reads John Updike books to feel good about themselves, unless they want to feel glad that they are not the people in his novels. His characters are constantly flawed, strewn with cracks, by turns petty or manipulative or simply ignorant, doing things out of self-interest or boredom and seeming to not understand the consequences of their actions, or knowing them full well and doing it anyway because they just don’t care. Which, in all honesty, is what makes his books worth…

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