Book Review – ‘The Adulteress’ by Noëlle Harrison ~ 4 Stars!
The Adulteress is one of the most hauntingly beautiful books I have read. It captivated me from the first chapter and I loved reading the descriptions of June Fanning’s childhood in pre World War II England, and how her love for her sister and father made her isolate herself from her Mother. Leaving war-torn London for the Irish countryside with her husband, I felt deeply for June when she found it difficult to find a place for herself. I felt heartbroken for her as her husband left her to fight in the War even though he wasn’t required to, even after knowing she was pregnant, and I felt angry with him for how aloof he was with her in his letters.
I loved the character of Phelim, with whom June grows a strong connection with after her husband leaves for War. Married to a woman who he knows does not love him, he loses himself in his art work, and I loved how cleverly Noëlle Harrison intertwined the story of the adulteress, who we assume to be June, and her lover an artist, who we assume to be Phelim, before shocking us with their true identities.
Nicholas’ story was also deeply touching. Having left his wife after she admitted to sleeping with another man, he moves from Dublin into a falling apart house deep in the rural Irish countryside. Immediately I felt a connection and deep sympathy for Nicholas who was obviously unable to settle in his new life. Yet, as we are given glimpses into the reasons behind the problems in his marriage, I also felt a deep sadness for what both him and his wife had suffered, and whilst before I would have taken Nicholas’ side, I now hoped for redemption and reconciliation between him and his wife.
The descriptions of the adulteress and her artist lover, as well as the beauty of the apple orchard was captivating and I felt mesmerised by the powerful imagery behind the storyline.
So why couldn’t I give this story five stars? Up until the last two pages, I was ready to give five stars, having loved the powerful story, and being happy with the way Nicholas’ story unfolded. But then, the ending left me feeling as though I’d completely missed the point of the story. The fact that June realising her true love was her husband seemed very strange considering how only a few pages earlier she’d been describing how much she wished she’d had a life and family with Phelim. Although her husband’s true feelings are discovered in a letter left for June, that Nicholas reads in order for June’s spirit to move on, I found this ending very forced, particularly after all of June’s character development in the novel.
Overall this was a beautiful and captivating read, but I was deeply saddened by the way I felt some of the characters didn’t get the ending they deserved, or had worked for during the book. So I give it 4 Stars but I definitely recommend giving it a read.