Elizabeth Appleton, John O'Hara, Random House, 1963, 310 pp
Immediately after reading Bad Sex, I picked up the #5 bestseller of 1963 and found myself again reading about adultery. Also again this is a male author writing about an unfaithful woman. What a difference 52 years can make, but then again adultery is infinitely older than half a century. It is in the Ten Commandments!
This makes the sixth John O'Hara book I have read because that is how many top ten bestsellers he had between 1949 and 1963. I have deeply mixed feelings about his fiction because, though he creates fully rounded female characters, I usually feel like he is mansplaining women to me.
What he is always actually writing about is the white American class system of the eastern part of the country. Not a whiff of diversity can be found nor is he fully comfortable with self-willed, self-realizing women. The sex is all window dressing and probably had a lot to do with how well his books sold.
Elizabeth Appleton, nee Webster, met John Appleton at a party and fell in love with him on the tennis courts. She was raised in upper class New York City wealth and privilege but found the young men of her class uninspiring. So she married Professor John Appleton, descendant of a line of professors at an old, revered private college in rural Pennsylvania. When the small college town in which she found herself and John's lack of push for advancement became uninspiring, she entered into an affair with the town's most eccentric, but also upper class bachelor.
That affair, successfully concealed from John for some years, and their marriage are the story. It was entertaining and O'Hara's writing as smooth as ever. I just was not convinced of its truth.
As far as the intervening fifty-some years go, Elizabeth ends her affair and goes on to live contentedly with her husband while Brett just keeps circling the drain. Of course, Bad Sex was not anywhere near a bestseller but despite my dislike of that novel, it may be closer to the truth.
(Elizabeth Appleton is out of print, so look for it in libraries or from used book sellers.)