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Couples

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  3,271 ratings  ·  204 reviews
In COUPLES, John Updike explores the psychosexual natures of a group of young middle-class marrieds in Tarbox, Massachusetts.

Against the background of general philandering and deceit, couples develop deep attachments punctuated by occasional frenzies of passion and intrigue.

Regarded as one of America's best authors, Updike, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes with painful in

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Mass Market Paperback, Reissue edition
Published August 12th 1982 by Fawcett Books (first published January 1st 1968)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Eric
I’m honestly a bit surprised that I picked this up. To my prejudices it was the jejune, possibly self-caricatural big bestseller, the book whose fame caused every obituary writer to narrowly cast Updike as a chronicler of upper-middle class New England marriages (Rabbit is a Pennsylvanian petit-bourgeois, as it happens). I had heard plenty of bad reports—-from personal friends, from distantly eminent judges (Martin Amis called it a “false summit” of the Updike oeuvre). But I was at a library sal ...more
brian
Feb 17, 2009 brian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to brian by: erik simon
one reads a lot of this about updike: “it’s really well written, but…”, “the prose soars, but…”, “the writing was great, but…”

you don’t see a lot of this regarding vincent van gogh: “it’s really well painted, but…”, “the brush strokes are nice but… isn’t he just painting a flower? or some wheat? or a dirty bar?”

an imperfect analogy, but close enough. updike digests reality and spits it out with such force and kaleidoscopic beauty i’d compare his description of reality against reality itself as
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Rebecca F.
Maybe I'm an idealist when it comes to matter of the heart, romantic idiom, love and marriage, so it is hard for me to grasp the reality that some people actually live(d) as described in this book. But with an entire novel (Couples) and a good part of at least two of the Rabbit books dedicated to the scenario of partner "swapping" and "swinging," and other forms of adultery (a.k.a. cheating), I am pushed to accept that not only does this behavior exist, but that author John Updike actually did i ...more
Ann
I read this book solely because it was once bestowed what I think is the most unforgettable blurb of all time: the author's wife once described it as "wading through pubic hair." Obviously, it was only a matter of time before I read Couples. Don't be like me. Don't read Couples.

Ok, now some disclaimers! This is the only Updike I've ever read (except for "Fellatio", surely The Worst Poem Ever Written, and I'm really more embarrassed for him than angry at him for writing it), so I've no comparison
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Bonnie
This book reminded me of my mother; one she may have read with pink edged pages, copyright 1968, the price on the cover $1.25 (not even an ISBN number). I picked up this one for its reputation for sex - and I was not disappointed.
But that's not why I gave it five stars. John Updike is a dazzling wordsmith. Everything from the imagery to the depth of his characters to the story line was top notch. I'd never read such a vivid representation of an asshole as I have with Piet Hanema.
Of course, it w
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Diana
"Двойки" напомня много на написаната 11 години по-късно "Ожени се за мен". Няколкото семейства са разширена версия на нейните две двойки. Образуват затворен кръг в идилично и елегантно предградие на Бостън - едно голямо семейство, което прави буквално всичко заедно, тайно или съвсем открито, в различни конфигурации от пол, възраст, социален статус, етнос, образование и религия. Едната част от ежедневието им е улегнала и нормална, другата - колкото скандализираща и порочна, толкова и първично чов ...more
Ron
I haven't read anything by John Updike for years so I picked up "Couples" at the library just so I could switch over to a prominent American writer for a change of pace. One of his most read books, "Couples" deals with the "new morality" that took hold amongst the young surburbanite married couples starting in the early 60's. Updike portrays this suburban culture in graphic, explicit terms, painting a picture of almost total inmorality amoung the couples of the town of "Tarbox". Even in 2011 ter ...more
Naomi Zener
I had to quit 110 pages in. The prose was overwritten and the story was boring. Perhaps it was scandalous at the time of publication, but it was not for me. I couldn't get into the author's style of writing--perhaps others will enjoy it, but it was not for me.
Sandra Barron
I came to this book purposefully, wanting to engage in mental conversation about couples in the suburbs of New England. I have very recently been reading other (similar) authors on the same subject: Fitzgerald (Tender is the Night, anyone?) Cheever, Yates (Revolutionary Road is a cousin, theme-wise). I’m not one to call these books “outdated” as some people have, as I usually find that 90% is universal and familiar in social behavior today. Couples, however, did feel dated because of the focus o ...more
Carla Stafford
I picked this book up on a whim at the library. I have no previous John Updike experience, so less than little, that until halfway through this novel-I thought John Updike and John Irving were one in the same.

Basically this novel is about a bunch of swinging couples in Tarbox, a community near Boston-I think. Angela and Peit Hanema are the focus...he is unfaithful, and she is cold. They are not part of the swinging couples in their community, but they are part of their circle. There are a coupl
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Brian
Rereading this book proved a doubly nostalgic experience. I first read Couples in 1990, when it was the first novel by Updike I approached; I enjoyed it then, especially for the evocation of my old home area and the shadows that so many people I knew growing up cast on the characters Updike creates (my father sold Updike his first house in Ipswich, my aunt was the organist at the church on the hill that is struck by lightening – in realty and in the novel). rereading it with the benefit of a cou ...more
Philip
Sixties somethings

The early nineteen sixties beckoned on a decade of change. Not only did the world shake off most of the remnants of its most recent global war, not only did Europe’s defeated former colonial powers almost complete their American-dictated divestment of their assets, not only did capitalism institutionalise the shape of globalised future, but also, apparently, married people discovered sex. But not, for the purposes of Couples by John Updike, with their legal partners…

John Updike
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Heather
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick Hahn
This book is thoroughly depressing. Now I've just recently finished A Farewell to Arms and that book was also thoroughly depressing but Couples is an entirely different species of depressing in that you can't believe how depraved these people are. As someone who is constantly called a hopeless romantic, it is shocking to see some of the things these married couples will do (or perhaps it is a sad wake up call?).

Of course it goes without saying that John Updike once again proves himself as a gif
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Don
What's wonderful and aggravating about Updike all in one book. We see the same recycled themes here (parts feel very much like Marry Me and the Rabbit series, among others), which isn't a bad thing. Updike loves to focus on adultery, and he does so as well as anyone I know. Some great characters here. Love the Piet storyline and all the characters involved in it. Also love the side-story about the swinging couple; really interesting stuff there that, unfortunately, he never really comes back to. ...more
Cari
I gave this book 2 stars, because like the other Updike I've read (Rabbit, Run), there is no denying that Couples is well-written. However, also like Rabbit, Run, I just didn't like it. I don't enjoy Updike's characters - I find them all completely unsympathetic. This novel seems to be about the danger of prescriptive existence in an unforgiving, unimaginative suburban town, where several (how many were there in the end, 8? 10?) couples in the early years of marriage and children, break the mono ...more
Jenn McConkey
Interesting to say the least. Long haul that it was with it's sometimes overdetailed prose I love the visuals Updike achieves in this story. The comparisons between parts of womens bodies and whatever variety of things he could think of to describe them was erotic and shows a man who loves women and aknowledges that women can and do love sex as mutually as men. Shows us that perhaps not prude but unsatisfied is more often the cause of a disinterested wife. I must admit I started looking at my ne ...more
Angie
I barely wanted to admit I read this crazy, weird, swingers' story, so I gave it 3 stars and put it away. In fact, I completely forgot I read it at all. So, missing Updike, I went back and read it again, and gave it another star. This time, the rampant adultery, while central to the novel, actually took a back seat to other things, and as with all Updike books, the (crazy-ass) characters began to take shape and become familiar, their flaws giving way to delicate virtues, until I liked most of th ...more
Constance Dunn
Three stars for the prose. I mean Updike knows how to use his words, no denying, but….
I got a little sick of spinning in this dry tumble with frustrated couples who drink their boredom away and sleep with their neighbor's spouse to try and light the fire again. The whole thing seemed so dismal and pointless, and maybe that was Updike's point about the educated classes on the east coast in the 1960s. However, even with Updike's prose I found it difficult to motivate myself to turn the page and fo
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John Harder
Couples is about various married people clandestinely swapping partners. Updike has always been sex obsessed. Well I guess we all are, but this is just a dirty book. Don’t get me wrong, I have read a number of books written by “Anonymous,” which also had convenient and educational photos (at least to an 11-year-old) contained therein. But this book is dirty in that the fornicators are not good but flawed people; they are from my perspective, amoral.

There is a huge difference between people who c
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Peter Goodman


“Couples,” by John Updike (Knopf, 1968). Updike’s sex book. Very explicit and detailed in its descriptions of sex. Speaking brutally, here in 1968 Updike tries out the hedonistic ‘60s, within his WASP New England world. A group of 10 couples in a south shore Massachusetts town party incessantly and screw each others’ spouses relentlessly. They mostly know what they are all doing, but most hide it from each other. All this takes place in the early ‘60s, culminating in the Kennedy assassination---
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Laura
The view from 2014 makes 1963 seem impossibly far away. Cultural barriers and attitudes that existed in that cold-war, post-WWII era seem quaint, even contrived, seen through the lens of ensuing decades. We tend to scoff at depictions of a decadent suburbia (or, in this case, exurbia) fraught with philandering husbands, coffee klatch rendezvous, and ski lodge assignations, but we forget this was an America finding itself after the horrors of two world wars with the help of Freud and the pill.

Th
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Jennifer
Couldn't even finish this book--and I tried pretty hard. These couples just became insufferable after a while, everyone cheating on one another and then doing nothing to make their lives what they want it to be. A bunch of miserable people complaining a lot and longing after one another--a real slog to get through.
Cecily
60's wife swapping in New England - hence rather confusing at first re who is married to who, who is having an affair with who, who children belong to etc. Wonderfully poignant and evocative metaphors and descriptive passages; other bits are deliberately disjointed, more like stream-of-consciousness.

Eric
My first experience with Updike was troubling to say the least. His tale of a group of couples in late 60's suburbia is full of the most unlikeable, misguided and uninteresting characters I've encountered in some time, with a premise that is at least daring and probably highly topical for its time. But as the plot moves forward and the characters jump around from bed to bed and partner to partner, it feels like Updike is writing sex scenes with the maniacal glee of a high school boy, and he writ ...more
Rachelle
Generally I like Updike. But this book made me despair for humanity. You know how occasionally you go to a party where everyone is a little too gaudy and loud, so you drink too much and leave as soon as you can, shutting the door firmly and breathing a sigh of relief? Yeah. Thusly.
Shannon Quinn
I'm a sucker for Updike and all his ridiculous prose, hyper 60s sexuality and f'd up relationships. Read this as it was one of the more commonly referred to Updike novels after the Rabbit series, which I just love. This was not nearly as intriguing but I'm not sorry I read it.
Brent Legault
Impossibly silly. Could anyone at any time have ever thought there was something controversial about this novel? It defies belief. And if it is true, as articles and newsclippings from the 1960's do suggest, then I'm afraid our literary ancestorss were a truly primitive breed.
Alexis
I love Updike's description and dialogue. This book must have been scandalous in the late 1960s. It's a depiction of a town in which everyone is adulterous and sleeps with each other. Intriguing and kind of gross, too. His endings always seem to peter out for me.
Adrien
Apr 23, 2012 Adrien marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Read it over 10 years ago and always meant to read it again. Do I like the suburban malaise genre? Yes, I do.
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John Hoyer Updike (born March 18, 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania) was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for hi ...more
More about John Updike...
Rabbit, Run (Rabbit Angstrom, #1) Rabbit at Rest (Rabbit Angstrom, #4) Rabbit Is Rich (Rabbit Angstrom, #3) Rabbit Redux (Rabbit Angstrom, #2) The Witches of Eastwick (Eastwick, #1)

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