Adulteress Anonymous is NOT what its title suggests, a so-called “bonkbuster”. And yet it is a novel about adultery, and an adulteress who, as the name suggests, is addicted to the state. The distinction rests on one vital fact. Frances has been in love with only one man, Daniel (and he with her) for over twenty years, but they have had to remain apart. The reason why they haven’t done the obvious – divorce their respective spouses (when both have one) or separate from them is involved. Here all I will say is that Frances, and to a certain extent, Daniel, are romantic idealists. When they fall in love both are unable to contemplate breaking his marriage. Furthermore their initial passion is so overwhelming that it strikes Frances, at least, as an experience which must be preserved as a emotional highlight for the rest of her life. That doesn’t mean that sexual activity fails to feature in this novel. On the contrary. Frances writes what is almost a humorous handbook, not on its mechanics, but on its psychology, whether legal or illicit.
This then is a satire, but an affectionate one. An unselfish, considerate, restrained lover is every young woman’s dream. But in clinging to that dream Frances wrecks her life, and everyone else’s, and yet luxuriates in a kind of transcendent dream about the exalted love she has been lucky enough to have inspired. This descants in every waking moment, and its intensity is heightened by the fact that Daniel, starved of contact with her, and inevitably guilty about what he himself has created, explores his predicament and the nature of love itself in poetry addressed to her.Contrast this ridiculously overblown love life with that of Frances’ best friend, Beth, a serial adulteress extracting what satisfactions she can from a series of promiscuous adventures, and comedy is hard to avoid. The position cannot endure, but how can Frances remedy what she discovers when it doesn’t, and still keep her lover, her friends, and her self-esteem? On a wider note, how sensibly do we view sexual fidelity? How far do we confuse it with love? That is the true subject of the novel, and Frances finds unexpected, even outrageous, but always loving answers.