Review of Richard B. Wright’s Adultery

by Laura Cok

Published at 2012-01-06

In one of my first classes in Ryerson University’s publishing certificate program, my teacher alluded to some of the goings-on at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade publishing book fair, and the most important when it comes to international deals, publishing rights, and licensing fees. He joked that the Frankfurt cabbies were well used to ferrying about publishing types for their various illicit liaisons.

I was therefore delighted to discover Richard B. Wright’s Adultery, a novel which takes as its starting point a brief affair between two Torontonian editors, Denise Crowder and Daniel Fielding, at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Unfortunately, Crowder is abducted, assaulted, and murdered during a tryst in England, leaving Fielding in an uncomfortably bright spotlight. The bulk of the novel is the aftermath of this single shattering event, for although the man responsible is quickly found and Fielding absolved of suspicion; he must deal with the recriminations of his family, the anger of hers, professional repercussions, and an international media with tremendous interest in the salacious story.
Despite these potboiler-esque beginnings, the novel itself is subtle, emotionally riveting, and written in a clear and lucid prose. What had begun as an indiscretion quickly snowballs into something far more devastating, and the questions of guilt and innocence — for if they had not been having this brief affair, Crowder never would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time — pervade the book. It becomes a fascinating and absorbing story of the emotional reality of heartbreak and public scandals that only seem to happen to other people, when in fact we are all of us vulnerable.
In 2001, Wright gained widespread acclaim with Clara Callan, which won both the Governor General and the Giller; Adultery was published in 2007, and his most recent novel is Mr. Shakespeare’s Bastard. He was The Editing Company’s adopted author at Word On The Street in 2010.