‘Indiscretion’: we’re not as ‘liberated’ as we think we are

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The wages of sin are presented with great drama and suspense in the new Charles Dubow novel, “Indiscretion” (William Morrow), which follows the impact of marital infidelity on a famous, and famously attractive, rich couple.

The first novel has been gathering good reviews since it was published earlier this month, and with good reason — it’s a beautifully written and provocative account of what happens to a marriage after a husband strays.

In recent decades, we’ve been conditioned to think that a marriage should be able to stay sound after an occasional outside sexual adventure, but Dubow shows us that neither men nor women can separate sex and “love” as easily as we might think we can.

The book has drawn comparisons with “The Great Gatsby” because of the wealthy characters, scenes in deluxe Long Island settings, and the fact that the story of the tragic romance is told by an observer.

Walter has been friends with Maddy and Harry Winslow for many years when the story begins. Walter has known Maddy since childhood and after she married Harry they became a tight trio.

Like Nick Carraway’s attraction to Daisy and Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby,” Walter is bedazzled by the beauty and charm of his friends. There’s never a threat of sex getting in the way for the man — he’s not gay, his motor just runs a little slow — but Walter’s adoration of the couple has strong elements of romantic love in it, as well as friendship.

Harry is a National Book Award-winning novelist and Maddy is beautiful, witty and generous to all of her friends. Their charisma is so so strong that everyone wants to be around them.

The trouble starts when a young woman named Claire arrives in the Hamptons on a date with an obnoxious British man who has become very wealthy in the financial sector.

At a social gathering, Claire is drawn to Maddy and Harry — she read Harry’s book and loved it — and they rescue her when the Brit becomes even worse than usual.

The 20ish woman works in the media and is naturally drawn to the fame and charm and wealth of her hosts.

Walter views everything with compassion — we soon see that he is writing about past events and he seems to be a reliable narrator.

The title and the cover suggest a novel racier than what is actually between the covers of “Indiscretion” — this isn’t a “Fatal Attraction” with a man succumbing to an evil temptress.

Dubow appears to be a moralist who shares Walter’s distress at the notion of Harry straying from Maddy, but Claire is not a villain. She is simply young and naive about the repercussions of expressing her desire for Harry and encouraging him to reciprocate.

It’s an auspicious debut.

Joe Meyers

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