The Greatest "Adultery" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Adultery

The "Adultery" category in literature encompasses works that delve into the complex and often morally fraught subject of infidelity within relationships, particularly marriage. Books within this genre explore the emotional, psychological, and social ramifications of extramarital affairs, examining themes such as betrayal, guilt, passion, and the search for personal fulfillment. The narratives often provide insight into the characters' inner lives and the circumstances that lead to their decisions to engage in adultery, as well as the consequences that unfold for all parties involved. This genre can span various styles, from dramatic and tragic to introspective and even comedic, offering readers a multifaceted look at one of society's enduring taboos.

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  1. 1. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

    Madame Bovary is a tragic novel about a young woman, Emma Bovary, who is married to a dull, but kind-hearted doctor. Dissatisfied with her life, she embarks on a series of extramarital affairs and indulges in a luxurious lifestyle in an attempt to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Her desire for passion and excitement leads her down a path of financial ruin and despair, ultimately resulting in a tragic end.

  2. 2. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, this novel tells the story of a woman who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. She is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her dress as a sign of her adultery while her lover, a revered local minister, remains unnamed and unpunished. Throughout the book, themes of sin, legalism, and guilt are explored.

  3. 3. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

    "The Good Soldier" is a tragic tale of two seemingly perfect couples: an American couple and an English couple, who meet at a German spa and share a nine-year friendship. However, underneath the surface, their relationships are far from ideal, filled with infidelity, lies, and deceit. The story is narrated by the American husband, who is the last to realize the intricate web of affairs and betrayals amongst the group. The novel explores themes of love, passion, and the destruction that can result from suppressed emotions and societal pressures.

  4. 4. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence

    "Lady Chatterley's Lover" is a controversial novel that explores themes of class, sexuality, and the human condition. The story revolves around a young, upper-class woman married to a paralyzed war veteran who, feeling emotionally and physically neglected, embarks on a passionate affair with the estate's gamekeeper. The narrative delves into the protagonist's sexual awakening and her struggle against societal norms, ultimately advocating for emotional honesty and physical intimacy as essential components of a fulfilling life.

  5. 5. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

    This novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, a working-class young man who dreams of becoming a scholar. The traditional class structure in 19th-century England prevents him from realizing his dream and his only solace is his love for his cousin, Sue Bridehead. Their scandalous relationship and the tragic events that follow form the heart of the narrative, which explores themes of love, class, religion, and morality.

  6. 6. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

    "The Awakening" is a novel set in the late 19th century New Orleans, which explores the life of a young woman trapped in societal and marital expectations. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery and independence, defying the norms of her time. The protagonist challenges the traditional roles of women as she seeks personal fulfillment, experiences sexual awakening, and struggles with her desires and responsibilities. The book is a critique of the repressive social norms, particularly regarding women and marriage, of the Victorian era.

  7. 7. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

    The novel revolves around the lives of the Lambert family, an old-fashioned midwestern couple and their three adult children. The parents, Alfred and Enid, are dealing with Alfred's Parkinson's disease and their own marital problems, while their children are each facing their own personal and professional crises. The narrative explores the themes of family dynamics, societal expectations, and the struggles of modern life. The story climaxes with the family's last Christmas together at their childhood home.

  8. 8. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

    Set in London during and just after World War II, the novel revolves around a love affair between Maurice Bendrix, a writer, and Sarah Miles, the wife of a civil servant. The story is narrated by Bendrix, who is obsessed with Sarah and hires a private investigator to follow her when he suspects she's having another affair. The novel explores themes of love, hate, and the existence of God, with Sarah's faith playing a significant role in the narrative.

  9. 9. The Golden Bowl by Henry James

    The Golden Bowl is a complex narrative that revolves around an American woman and her daughter who marry a father and son. The daughter's husband previously had a romantic relationship with the mother's husband, leading to a tense and intricate web of relationships. The novel explores themes of marriage, adultery, and familial bonds, and is renowned for its detailed characterization and intricate plot structure.

  10. 10. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

    This classic novel is set in the rustic rural backdrop of Egdon Heath and revolves around the life of Clym Yeobright, a successful diamond merchant who returns to his native land from Paris. His return sparks a chain of events involving love, ambition, betrayal, and tragedy. His love interest, Eustacia Vye, dreams of escaping the monotonous rural life, while his mother disapproves of their relationship. The novel explores the themes of love, fate, chance, and the clash between individuals' aspirations and societal expectations.

  11. 11. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

    This novel is a thrilling tale of passion, murder, and betrayal. The story revolves around a drifter who becomes involved in an adulterous affair with a married woman. Together, they plot to kill her older husband for the insurance money. However, their plan spirals out of control, leading to unexpected consequences and a shocking conclusion. The narrative explores themes of lust, greed, and the destructive power of obsession.

  12. 12. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane

    This novel explores the life of a 17-year-old girl who is married off to a much older man, a high-ranking official, for the sake of social and financial stability. Despite her husband's devotion, she embarks on a passionate, but doomed affair with a charming, yet manipulative, major. The affair ends disastrously, leading to her social ostracization and eventual descent into loneliness and despair. The book serves as a critique of the rigid Prussian society of the late 19th century.

  13. 13. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

    Set in the 1930s, this novel explores the disintegration of the marriage of an upper-class English couple, Tony and Brenda Last. Brenda embarks on an affair with a social climber, John Beaver, leading to the demise of her marriage. After their son's tragic death, Brenda demands a divorce and a large portion of Tony's estate. Tony, heartbroken, embarks on an ill-fated expedition to the Brazilian jungle. The novel critically examines the moral decay of British aristocracy and society.

  14. 14. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

    The novel follows the story of a British colonial police officer stationed in Sierra Leone during World War II. He is an honest and diligent man but finds himself in a moral crisis when he is torn between his duty and his love for another woman. He is caught in a spiral of deceit, corruption, and betrayal that leads to his tragic end. The narrative delves into themes of guilt, faith, betrayal, and moral paradoxes.

  15. 15. Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

    "Thérèse Raquin" is a novel about a young woman who is unhappily married to her cousin, a sickly and selfish man. She embarks on a passionate and destructive affair with one of her husband's friends, leading to a series of tragic events. The novel explores themes of lust, guilt, and the psychological consequences of such immoral actions, set against the bleak backdrop of the Parisian underworld.

  16. 16. Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis

    The novel is a darkly comic, yet tragic exploration of love, betrayal, and jealousy, told through the unreliable narration of the protagonist, a middle-aged man who believes his wife has cheated on him with his best friend. The narrative is filled with ambiguity and uncertainty, forcing readers to question the reality of the events described. The novel is also a profound exploration of the human psyche and the destructive power of obsession.

  17. 17. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

    The novel follows the journey of a 29-year-old poet who is struggling with her identity and self-worth. She is in an unhappy marriage and fantasizes about a life of sexual and personal freedom. Her fantasies center around the "zipless fuck", a spontaneous and impersonal sexual encounter. She embarks on an affair with a British psychoanalyst in an attempt to realize her fantasies, but ultimately learns that true liberation comes from within.

  18. 18. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

    This novel follows the story of a retired historian, wheelchair-bound due to a degenerative disease, as he explores the lives of his pioneering grandparents in the late 19th and early 20th century American West. Through letters, he pieces together their struggles, triumphs, and the impact of their relationship on their surroundings. The historian parallels his own life and failed marriage with that of his grandparents, leading to a deep exploration of the concepts of stability, perseverance, and the "angle of repose."

  19. 19. Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen

    "Belle du Seigneur" is a tragic love story set in the 1930s, revolving around a high-ranking Jewish official who works for the League of Nations and his passionate affair with a married Swiss aristocrat. The narrative delves deep into their intense relationship, exploring themes of obsession, self-destruction, and existential despair, all set against the backdrop of the impending Second World War. The novel is also notable for its satirical portrayal of diplomatic life and its exploration of Jewish identity.

  20. 20. Silk by Alessandro Baricco

    "Silk" is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of a 19th-century French silkworm merchant who travels to Japan for business. During his travels, he becomes enamored with a mysterious woman. His unrequited love for her haunts him for the rest of his life, even as he returns to France and continues his life there. The novel explores themes of love, longing, and the profound impact that brief encounters can have on one's life.

  21. 21. Confusion by Stefan Zweig

    "Confusion" is a compelling narrative that explores the intense and passionate relationship between a student and his charismatic professor. Set in the early 20th century, the story unfolds as the protagonist becomes entangled in the professor's personal life, discovering his mentor's secret past, his struggling marriage, and his hidden homosexual desires. The book presents a profound exploration of human emotions, identity, and the complexities of love, against the backdrop of the societal norms of the time.

  22. 22. Stoner by John Williams

    The novel follows the life of William Stoner, a farm boy turned academic, who becomes a professor of English literature at the University of Missouri. Despite his love for teaching and his passion for literature, Stoner's life is marked by a series of personal and professional disappointments, including a loveless marriage, an unsuccessful career, and a failed relationship with a fellow professor. Throughout his life, Stoner remains dedicated to his work, finding solace and purpose in his commitment to the life of the mind.

  23. 23. Natural Novel by Georgi Gospodinov

    "Natural Novel" is a thought-provoking and imaginative work that seamlessly weaves together various narratives and perspectives. The book explores the concept of storytelling and its power to shape our understanding of reality. Through a blend of fiction, memoir, and philosophical musings, the author delves into the complexities of human existence, the interconnectedness of life, and the search for meaning in a world filled with both beauty and tragedy. With its poetic prose and profound insights, "Natural Novel" invites readers to contemplate the boundaries between truth and fiction, ultimately challenging conventional notions of storytelling.

  24. 24. Brick Lane by Monica Ali

    This novel tells the story of a Bangladeshi woman named Nazneen who moves to London at the age of 18 for an arranged marriage to a man 20 years her senior. The narrative explores her life in the city, her struggles with her unhappy marriage, her affair with a young radical, and her attempts to reconcile her traditional upbringing with her new surroundings. The book also explores the lives of immigrants in the UK, the clash of cultures, and the struggle for identity.

  25. 25. The Beauty Of The Husband by Anne Carson

    "The Beauty of the Husband" is a poetic exploration of a failing marriage. Told in 29 tangos, the narrative unfolds the story of a woman who remains in love with her husband despite his numerous infidelities. The husband, a charming and deceitful character, is portrayed as a figure of magnetic attraction and revulsion, with his wife drawn to his charisma and repelled by his dishonesty. The book is a profound examination of love, betrayal, and the complex dynamics of relationships.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download