Couples is the erotic 1968 novel by John Updike which focuses on a liberated, promiscuous circle of 10 married friends in the fictional Boston suburb of Tarbox in Massachusetts. Much of the novel (which takes place from the spring of 1963 until the spring of 1964) concerns the efforts of its characters to balance the pressures of Protestant sexual mores against increasingly flexible American attitudes toward sex, swinging and group-sex in the 1960s. The book suggests that this relaxation may have been driven by the development of birth control and the opportunity to enjoy what one character refers to as "the post-pill paradise." The circle of acquaintance is felt as a magic circle, with ritual games, religious substitutes, a priest, and a scapegoat. Its publication created a mild scandal and elicited a cover story in TIME magazine. Couples is the book that has been called " an intellectual Peyton Place." It has been assailed for its complete frankness and praised as an artful, seductive, savagely graphic portrait of love, marriage, and adultery in America. Updike captures the narcissism and wild exhibitionism of the era, when children are left to wander around howling and lonely and neurotic about death as their parents sneak in and out of each other's bedrooms. The incidents of wife-swapping are a nice blend of Noel Coward and Krafft-Ebing. Kennedy reigns triumphant and dies symbolically. The sex scenes are candid, explicit and highly erotic but not embarrassing and, most unexpectedly, it is one of the saddest and reflective stories he wrote. Penguin ISBN 0140029443
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