Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: Indiscretion by Charles Dubow

Title: Indiscretion
Author: Charles Dubow
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Source: e-ARC received from publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

We’ve all been around a couple who can engulf the attention of an entire room merely by occupying it. Harry and Madeleine Winslow are that set; the natural ease between them is palpable and their chemistry is almost tangible. He is a recent National Book Award winner with a promising career ahead of him, and she is blessed with family money, but radiates beauty, elegance, and humility. Whether they are abroad in Italy after he receives the Rome Prize, in their ambrosial East Hampton home, or in gritty Manhattan, they are always surrounded by close friends and those who wish to penetrate their inner circle. During a summer spent at the beach, they meet 26 year-old Claire and, as the summer blazes on, she is slowly inducted into their world. Claire can’t help but fall in love with Harry and Maddy and at the end of the summer, it is no longer enough to just be one of their hangers-on. Told through the omniscient eyes of Maddy’s childhood friend Walter, Indiscretion is a juicy, page turning novel with writing that is sophisticated and lyrical. Deeply textured, full of light and darkness, and overwhelmingly sensual, this book will be the sexiest, most intimate story you read all year.

My Review:

"We make so many right decisions in life, but it is the wrong ones that can never be forgiven."

Ooooh, what an intriguing journey I went on with this novel.  I'm not going to give you much plot detail beyond the description, because I think it's just enough.  The basic premise of the novel is not surprising ( involves infidelity?), but even so, I was never quite sure where it was going to go next.  Its subject is seemingly simple (a marriage, a friendship, indiscretion), but I never felt like I knew the true nature of the book's four main characters--and that air of mystery left the plot in a state of constant change.

You see, Dubow leaves enough of each character in shadow so that you never get a good grip on them, and thus you constantly question their desires and motives.  Given that this is a book focusing primarily on relationships--their origins, their flaws, what makes them important to us--you don't want everything neatly explained anyway.  Half the fun of this novel is figuring out what makes each protagonist tick, and how they will react in the face of despair.

Beyond the somber and shifty nature of the book as a whole, I was also enamored with the way it was narrated.  When the story begins, you can't quite get a read on Walter (lifelong friend of the primary couple, Harry and Maddy Winslow).  His background is vague, and his feelings for Harry and Maddy (especially Maddy) leave you wondering what his true place is in the novel.  At first, I thought he was the chosen narrator because of his distance from Harry and Maddy's relationship--but that later proves not to be true, as Walter takes an increasingly large role in their lives.  I love stories that do interesting things with perspective, and Indiscretion certainly manages that.  Walter's role in the book gradually changes as the pages turn, and as a result, your perception of the entire debacle must change as well.

The ending deserves its own paragraph, because the last 20% of this book is phenomenal.  I thought I had an idea of what might happen, but then something totally different occurred.  I got comfortable with that reality, settled in for a nicely-wrapped ending, and then...GAME CHANGE.  Well played, Mr. Dubow.
And then after that lovely twist, there was YET ANOTHER ONE.  After a fairly evenly-paced novel, I was surprised to see so many change-ups in the ending, but I loved it nonetheless.

Were there any downsides to Indiscretion?  I will say that when I started to realize that the book was truly filled with regular, not-crazy people (and not at least one crazy-stalker, like I had originally thought), I was a little disappointed and for part of the book after that, I felt like things got a little slow.  However, after I got over that realization and reworked my idea of the book (as I had to do so many times anyway), I moved on and ended up loving the direction it took. 

Also, I don't know if this is a downside, but some of the sex scenes are quite explicit.  If you're averse to that (where my reading prudes at??), they can be a bit shocking, but they only occur in a relatively small part of the novel and do have a descriptive purpose in the plot.

Overall, I found this book to be rather fantastic.  Human relationships are so often ambiguous, and Dubow nails that both in his choice of narrator and in the ever-shifting direction of the character's lives.  You probably won't get a good read on Harry, Maddy, Claire, and Walter until the last page--and even then, you'll still be left with a few "whys" to ponder.  This is a thought-provoking book that gets to the heart of the fluidity of our relationships--and how one wrong decision can have implications that last a lifetime.

Check out some other reviews of Indiscretion:
Nomad Reader
I Read A Book Once...
Confessions of a Book Addict


  1. I really enjoyed this one too, and it definitely kept me guessing! I read it last summer, and I had the same problem of trying to figure out what kind of book it was. There were no reviews to measure my expectations against, but it was also really fun to just be along for the ride.

  2. Yes, I tried not to read any other reviews until after I'd written my own, because I wanted to form my own vision of it before I looked at other's. I must say I am impressed at the vast number of interpretations on this one. It's a great book to make you think.

  3. As always, I'm hooked based off your review. Wonder if I can pick this up through my library on my Nook? Gonna have to check it out when I finish my current read.

  4. I love narrators that throw me off balance like that. This sounds great!

  5. Yay Jennie! I am happy to inspire :)

  6. I've been intrigued by this one, though I was sort of hoping at least on character was a little bit crazy. Still sounds good though!

  7. I've been hearing about this book quite a lot lately, but I wasn't too sure initially. It sounds like a brilliant book though - I have to check it out.

  8. @4thstreet, yes, it has an opening that almost makes you expect some it was a little shock when there wasn't.

  9. I didn't read all of your review, Kelly, 'cos I really want to read this, but I read enough to see that you enjoyed it which makes me all the more keen! Love a book that has surprises that you DON'T see coming! I like the mysterious characters/narrators thing too. Love a book that can unsettle me, even in subtle ways, y'know?

  10. Shannon, I can't wait to hear your review once you've read it. It's really excellent!

  11. I liked the notion that adultery is so mundane. It was a refreshing outlook on the topic.

  12. I very much agree. So many books treat adultery as an explosive plot event, so it was certainly a change of pace to have it almost be the background music here.


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