Books For The Affair Fans
If the exploits of Noah, Helen, Alison, and Cole (and Vic and Luisa and Max and Juliette and that publicist and probably some other adulteresses we’re forgetting) get your blood pumping when watching The Affair on a Sunday night, check out some of these reads with equally scandalous plots and conflicted characters.
Nora Ephron, Heartburn
Tackling adultery and the dissolution of a marriage with humor can’t be done by just any writer, but Nora Ephron? Sure, no problem. Take a break from the heavy tone of The Affair every week and delve into Heartburn instead for a similar subject matter (the seven-months-pregnant narrator sees her marriage fall apart when her husband leaves her for another woman) but with a whole different approach. Plus there’s the bonus of delicious recipes in there too, thanks to the cookbook-writing heroine and the resounding truth that food will get your through any breakup.
Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal
Like drama? The Rehearsal is for you. Eleanor Catton’s novel tells the scandalous story of a student-professor affair and the avid interest it evokes in the girl’s friends. Keeping infidelity a secret is never easy, but when the relationship becomes the subject of the school play everything is literally on display for all to see. Mixing teen angst with an affair makes for some fast page-turning, that’s for sure.
Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests
Affairs are nothing new, kids! Back in 1922 London, cheating on your significant other was just as juicy a scandal as it is today. Set in south London, The Paying Guests is the story of Mrs. Wray, her spinster daughter, and the lodgers that come to stay at their fancy villa when the Wrays’ finances no longer allow them to afford the home. (Picture Helen’s Brooklyn brownstone but in the English capital and with fewer annoying kids.) Things change drastically for the ladies when a modern young couple arrives, bringing with them passion, discord, and ultimately, crime.
John Updike, Couples
John Updike’s novel Couples details the actions of 10 young married couples — just one major twist: They’re in a sex cult. In the age of 50 Shades of Grey, the sexual content in Updike’s novel isn’t super raunchy, but the real fascination lies in the exploration of the dissatisfaction of marriage and the concept of infidelity as a necessary outlet.
Zadie Smith, On Beauty
On Beauty chronicles the misadventures of a British/American interracial family living in Massachusetts. Smith’s wit and insight is peppered throughout, making this a worthwhile read. Plus, the novel is set in a university town, there’s a relationship between an older party and a teen, and there’s plenty of family drama — sounds a lot like season 3 of The Affair to us.
Emma Straub, The Vacationers
Nothing like a trip to the beach to deal with a little infidelity. Whether it’s The Hamptons as in The Affair or Mallorca, Spain as in The Vacationers, there’s something about that sea air that brings indiscretions bubbling to the surface. Despite (or perhaps because of) 35 years of marriage, Jim and Franny are dealing with Jim’s affair with a 20-something intern while also confronting the love lives of other children — their own. Sun, sand and sex; what more could you want from a vacay read?
Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation
Dept. of Speculation examines what happens when what was once a happy and functional marriage suddenly begins to unravel. The wife (who remains unnamed throughout) analyzes every aspect of the relationship in an attempt to understand where it all went wrong. It’s kind of like the breakdown of Noah and Alison’s short-lived marriage, but without quite so many heart-breaking obstacles and pesky murder convictions.
Hanif Kureishi, Intimacy
This one is pretty heavy, so if you’re a fan of The Affair’s realistic take on self-involved spouses, toxic marital relations, and their messy demise, Intimacy is the book for you. Husband Jay is the restless, intellectual type who finds himself torn between his love for a new paramour and his commitment to his sons — sounds just like the deplorable Noah Solloway. It’s impossible not to become wrapped up in the narrator’s agony as you turn the pages.