Daughter of a wealthy businessman, tall, beautiful Emily Stockwell Turner falls out of love with her stolid professor husband, Holman, halfway through their first semester at a small college for men in northern New England. She is lonely and miserable in this remote place. Encouraged by her confidante and fellow faculty wife, Miranda, she embarks on a secret affair with the college musician, Will Thomas.

Divorced and sexually experienced, Will initiates Emmy into the powerful romance of physical love. But their on-again, off-again relationship is fraught by its own secrecy, Holman's jealous suspicions, Will's infidelities, Emmy's lies, Miranda's disingenuous disinterest, and the not-so-irrational hatred that Freddy, Emmy's four-year old son, bears Will.

Emmy and Will take ever greater risks with their clandestine encounters; eventually they admit to being truly in love and she decides to join him in his move to New York City. But Holman falls ill and nearly loses his contract position at the University when he tries to kill a student demonstrator whom he wrongly suspects of being Emmy's lover. Emmy postpones her departure indefinitely, because Holman "needs" her more.


Published in 1962, in the early years of the sexual revolution, this first novel by a divorced mother of three sons, explores the painful dimensions of marriage and friendship with insight and wit. Emmy's and Holman's thoughts are exposed with merciless comic realism: the smug rationalization of selfishness; the banal messiness of diaphragms and intercourse; the inexplicable tolerance of motherhood; the preposterous products of envy. Lurking around the edges of adultery, dishonesty, and passion, strives a loosely evolving concept of morality--conscience--that reconciles the pasts of education, upbringing, and society with their imagined futures.


First published: 1962


Avon Books

Place Published

New York



Page Count