Paulo Coelho is best known for The Alchemist, which has sold more than 83 million copies, is one of the best-selling books in history and has been translated into 67 different languages. It’s also been published as an excellent graphic novel. I picked up Adultery to read for the most simple of serendipitous reasons – it was on the shelf when I walked past, and I’ve always wanted to read something of Coelho’s.
Linda, our protagonist, is living the perfect life. She has a handsome, talented husband, two children, and a fulfilling career of her own as a journalist. They live in a beautiful home in Switzerland and take vacations in countries and hotels most of us only dream about. Things are going very well for her and her future. She has it all, and, somehow, is unhappy.
After an interview with an author who insists that the way to live life, instead of seeking happiness is to live passionately, she starts to notice how few, if any, risks she takes in life. In this vulnerable moment, she meets a successful man from her youthful past, and commits an adulterous indiscretion.
Instantly she (and you, the fortunate reader) is catapulted into a life of courting risk, assessing risk, and throwing caution to the wind. She risks her marriage, her lover’s marriage, and her own happiness through increasingly dangerous acts that both conceal and enflame her and her lover’s lives. There were points where I, as a reader, thought Linda had lost her mind. The delicate yet powerful dance she leads us on is incredible, at times thrilling, at times horrifying, but always, fundamentally, human.
Adultery is an example of what happens to an idea when it is taken in hand by a masterful author and expanded into a story which is intoxicating, nuanced, well-envisioned, and searingly well-written. His use of language (though in translation) is as clean and deep as a volcanic lake. Books like this are why we read.