Saturday, 24 March 2007

The Adultery club by Tess Stimson

The adultery club by Tess Stimson

This is the kind of book one impulse buys in an airport departure lounge. I bought it in the Gatwick North terminal on the way to Courchevel. The title is arresting and the marketing blurb on the back promises lots of bonking. Harmless entertainment?

There are plenty of in-your-face descriptions of bonking, which I will leave to your imagination, though they are fairly obvious. A quibble I have is the notion the authoress has about a man’s ability to immediately develop a rock-hard condition in his trousers at the drop of a hat, or should I say the glimpse of an inch of female thigh. Or is that just me being emotionally/physically retarded?!

The story is about a man aged in his forties who commits adultery, when as the back cover says “Sara Kaplan, a bright, vivacious young lawyer, explodes into his life like a sexual hand grenade.” The eternal triangle.

Before you sneer (yet surreptitiously purchase it for your next beach holiday), let me state that the book has some very good elements. If the authoress can cut out the clich├ęd raw sex and avoid the atrociously happy ending, she could develop into an excellent writer.

First a lesser point: She has a wide vocabulary, and turns out original and witty phrases in the midst of the dross.

Second, she employs a clever narrative technique of revolving the first-person point of view in each chapter between husband, mistress and wife. Some key scenes are repeated, down to the level of the conversations word-for-word, interspersed with internal monologue of the narrators’ thoughts, revealing amusingly different interpretations of what the characters do and say. This technique explores the gulf that appears in how people misunderstand and misread each others’ intentions. Out of this triangle of views, the personality of the wronged wife becomes the most interesting, complex and sympathetic.

The third good point is that the story takes a dark and painful turn 2/3rds of the way through, when the wife discovers the adultery. The adulterous husband and mistress sink into a hell of immediate conflict and radically isolated social position, when they discover their sexual activities are the only binding glue in their relationship. This section of the book is more gripping for the reader than the bonking / secret philandering parts. I wish the book had sunk the adulterous pair further into the inferno, to make a more satisfying end for the reader.

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