Adultery Novels

Madame Bovary - Flaubert
Madame Bovary - Flaubert. Google Images/

Is it love, sex, or adultery? Some of the greatest novels in literature involve forbidden love, but what consequences do the characters face? Does the marriage last after the infidelity is over? Read these novels about adultery, and find out what happens after the passion has ended.

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Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary. Oxford University Press

by Gustave Flaubert. Published in 1856, "Madame Bovary" is the story of Emma Bovary and her husband, Charles. Emma's romantic expectations turn into disappointment. She eventually turns to other men in an attempt to escape her boring and unfulfilling life with her second-rate doctor-husband.

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Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover
Lady Chatterley's Lover. Signet Classics

by D. H. Lawrence. First published in 1928, "Lady Chatterley's Lover" was banned until 1960 because of its explicit sexual explorations and an extramarital affair.

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The Scarlet Letter

Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Published in 1850, "The Scarlet Letter" centers around the Puritanical existence of Hester Prynne, who wears her scarlet "A" and bears an illegitimate baby, Pearl.

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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
Anna Karenina - Tolstoy. Google Images/

by Leo Tolstoy. Published between 1873 and 1877, "Anna Karenina" is about a young woman, Anna Karenina, who has an affair with Count Vronsky. She struggles for personal freedom as she juggles the demands of marriage, motherhood, and social convention.

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Ethan Frome

by Edith Wharton. Published in 1911, "Ethan Frome" is a frame story that centers around the love of Mattie and Ethan in Starkfield, Massachusetts. Their failed suicide attempt traps them in the frozen landscape of Zelda's domain.

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The Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Tales
Chris Drumm/Flickr/CC 2.0

by Geoffrey Chaucer. First published by William Caxton in the 1470s, The Canterbury Tales is filled with the stories of pilgrims about adultery, revenge, love, lechery, and more. ​The Canterbury Tales offers satirical renderings, juxtaposing the secular with the divine elements in a bawdy mix

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Doctor Zhivago

by Boris Pasternak. Published in 1956, "Doctor Zhivago" is about the adulterous love affair between Doctor Yurii Andreievich Zhivago (Yura) and Larisa Foedorovna (Lara) against the backdrop of the horrors of the Russian Revolution, with cannibalism, dismemberment, and other horrors of war.

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Liza of Lambeth

by W. Somerset Maugham. Published in 1897, "Liza of Lambeth" was William Somerset Maugham's first novel. The novel is about Liza Kemp, an 18-year-old factory worker and the youngest of 13 children. Her affair with Jim Blakeston, a 40-year-old father of 9 children, is an ​unforgivable transgression.

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Book Published by H Stone, Chicago

by Kate Chopin. Published in 1899, "Awakening" is the story of Edna Pontellier, who rejects the bonds of motherhood and marriage. This novel was labeled an "immoral" and "sordid" portrayal of womanhood, and the banning of "Awakening" almost relegated the author to perpetual obscurity.

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By Paul Hermans (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Paul Hermans/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

by James Joyce. Published in book form in 1922, James Joyce's "Ulysses" is the story of Leopold Bloom, who wanders the city of Dublin on June 16, 1904, while his wife, Molly commits adultery.