Book Review: Indiscretion by Charles Dubow


Rating: 4.5 / 5

Harry and Maddy Winslow have an idyllic life; Harry has just won the National Book Award, and Maddy has family money, which has sustained them while Harry has been getting his writing career off the ground.  They are both beautiful and successful, with an apartment in Manhattan, a family home in the Hamptons, and a wonderful nine-year old son whom they both adore.   Everything is perfect until they meet Claire, a youthful and beautiful girl whom they end up befriending and welcoming her into their orbit of family and friends.  Although the first time Claire makes a pass at Harry he brushes her off, a random meeting months later sparks old desires, which Harry cannot resist.  When Maddy finds out about the affair, the seemingly perfect relationship she had with Harry threatens to unravel.  Told through the eyes of Maddy’s childhood friend, Walter, Indiscretion is a novel about friendships, deception, betrayal, and love.

Novels centering on betrayal and infidelity are a dime a dozen, and yet Dubow brings something edgy and different with Indiscretion.  It is beautifully written, and while I have little sympathy for Harry, I still found the story captivating.  The language is simply exquisite, and my favorite lines of Indiscretion are, “Carelessness is the handmaiden to tragedy.  Cataclysmic events often have their origins in the mundane. We turn left when we meant to go right, and the world changes forever” (195).  That one paragraph encompasses so much of the book, but also life.

Instead of Indiscretion being told from Maddy or Harry’s point of view, Dubow was brilliant in using Walter Gervais as narrator.  Although his deep and unwavering love for Maddy might have rendered him an unreliable narrator, he is definitely the heart and soul of the novel.  I cannot imagine the pain he has endured his whole life, watching the love of his life choose someone else.  Walter provides a nice contrast to Harry, who breaks his marriage vow seemingly without thought to how it would affect his family.  He lives in the here and now and has taken Maddy’s love for granted, while Walter is a spectator, forever loving Maddy, but getting a different kind of love in return.

Indiscretion is a remarkable first novel by Charles Dubow, made more so because he was previously an editor at a few business-related endeavors.  I loved Indiscretion and can’t wait for his next novel.

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