Indiscretion (Dubrow)

Charles Dubrow, 2013
388 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062201058

Every story has a narrator. Someone who writes it down after it's all over. Why am I the narrator of this story? I am because it is the story of my life—and of the people I love most.

Harry and Madeleine Winslow have been blessed with talent, money, and charm. Harry is a National Book Award–winning author on the cusp of greatness. Madeleine is a woman of sublime beauty and grace whose elemental goodness and serenity belie a privileged upbringing. Bonded by deep devotion, they share a love that is both envied and admired. The Winslows play host to a coterie of close friends and acolytes eager to bask in their golden radiance, whether they are in their bucolic East Hampton cottage, abroad in Rome thanks to Harry's writing grant, or in their comfortable Manhattan brownstone.

One weekend at the start of the summer season, Harry and Maddy, who are in their early forties, meet Claire and cannot help but be enchanted by her winsome youth, quiet intelligence, and disarming naivete. Drawn by the Winslows' inscrutable magnetism, Claire eagerly falls into their welcoming orbit. But over the course of the summer, her reverence transforms into a dangerous desire. By Labor Day, it is no longer enough to remain one of their hangers-on.

A story of love, lust, deception, and betrayal as seen through the omniscient eyes of Maddy's childhood friend Walter, a narrator akin to Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, Indiscretion is a juicy, richly textured novel filled with fascinating, true-to-life characters—an irresistibly sensual page-turner that explores having it all and the consequences of wanting more.

Indiscretion also marks the debut of a remarkably gifted writer and storyteller whose unique voice bears all the hallmarks of an exciting new literary talent. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—New York City, New York, USA
Education—Weslyan University (no degree);
   New York University
Currently—New York City, New York

Charles Dubow was born in New York City and spent his summers at his family's house on Georgica Pond in East Hampton. He was educated at Wesleyan University and New York University. He has worked as a roustabout, a lumberjack, a sheepherder in New Zealand, and a congressional aide, and was a founding editor of and later an editor at He lives in New York City with his wife, Melinda; children, William and Lally; and Labrador retriever, Luke. This is his first novel. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
A smart, sensuous, and moving debut.... Delicious.... The characters exude a Jazz Age glamour.
O magazine

A cultural lament wrapped in a lesson about extramarital lust—a riveting read.
Daily Beast

Dubow tracks the fallout of an affair in his elegant debut centering on a golden couple, Harry and Maddy Winslow. He’s an award-winning writer, she’s a beautiful heiress; Walter Gervais, Maddy’s childhood friend and secret admirer, narrates the story. One weekend in the Hamptons, the Winslows meet Claire, a needy ingenue who develops a crush on the couple, especially Harry. Her role as hanger-on is severed when the Winslows leave for a year abroad, but Harry finds himself struggling with his next novel, and a chance encounter with Claire while on a business trip back to the U.S. launches him into a heady affair. Dubow draws the relationship perfectly—Claire is a giddy romantic, and Harry delights in playing the wealthy cosmopolitan. When Maddy discovers her husband’s betrayal, the four players form a miserable face-off, where Walter’s unrequited love bubbles to the surface in the face of Maddy’s grief, and Harry and Claire negotiate the affair’s relationship potential. Despite a disappointing and drawn-out ending, smart and observant writing makes the story well worth the ride.
Publishers Weekly

He's a National Book Award-winning author, she's kind and beautiful, and together they entertain friends at their elegant Manhattan brownstone and East Hampton cottage. But Harry and Madeleine Winslow are heading for trouble when they take charming young Claire under their wing. Great expectations for this work from New Yorker-to-the-bone Dubow.
Library Journal

Dubow crafts an epic novel of friendship, betrayal and undying love. It's a beautifully written debut. Walter Gervais is a true gentleman and childhood friend of Harry Winslow's wife, Maddy, and it's through his eyes that the story is told. Unobtrusive and playing a rather peripheral role, at least in the beginning, he delivers a balanced and fascinating account of the events that invariably change not only his friends' lives, but his own.... [T]he author chooses to add more unexpected layers to the story that elevate it from run-of-the-mill to outstanding. Dubow's book is a page turner that skillfully tugs at the heartstrings.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. What were your first impressions of Claire? Did they change over the course of the novel?

2. Describe each of the protagonists: Maddy, Harry, Claire, Walter. What drives each of them? What attracts them to the other? Is their outcome inevitable? How much are each responsible for the events that unfold?

3. Walter described the couple as being unselfish about their love. "They share it with so many people. It is what draws the rest of us to them." Talk about his comment. What is it about the Winslows' love that is so appealing? Would they have been better off being more selfish about their feelings?

4. What is Claire's relationship to the Winslows? Why are they so willing to adopt her into their circle? Were there any signs that Maddy should have seen?

5. Harry made up bedtime stories for his son, Johnny. One of Walter's favorites was about the Penguin King. Think about that bedtime story. How does it relate to the wider story told in Indiscretion?

6. In describing the indiscretion at the heart of the story, Walter refuses to cast blame. "Who can blame them? There are few things more powerful, more intoxicating than knowing there is someone who desires you utterly. And if it is illicit, secret, forbidden, that makes it all the more exciting. Who cares at that point about other people? Others don't matter when it is just the two of you in your own little lifeboat. Desire is all. Shame does not figure into it." Are you sympathetic to Walter's point of view? Do you share his understanding?

7. Madeleine is a wise and worldly woman. Why is she taken by surprise by Harry's actions? Should she—could she—have handled her reaction differently?

8. Were you surprised by the novel's twist? Why does Charles Dubow turn the story as he does?

9. Harry's father, an English teacher, believes that Harry suffered from hamartia—the fatal flaw. "When the hero does something stupid or wrong, the fates won't let him forget it." Is he right? Was Harry a heroic character? Or is Harry's father trying to make rational sense of the irrational as Walter thinks?

10. Why doesn't Walter have Harry's second book published? Was the decision truly his to make? At the novel's end, Walter meets Claire again and she tells him that the naiveté of youth shields her from blame. Do you agree with her? She also tells him, "The irony is that I won in the end. At least in a way I did." What does she think she won?

11. Indiscretion is narrated by Maddy and Harry's friend, Walter. How does this affect how the story is told? How would the story change if it were narrated by multiple voices or from another character's viewpoint? Choose a character, and retell a few scenes from his or her perspective. How does this affect how you read the novel and your impressions of the characters and their motives?

12. Is Walter a reliable narrator? Is he believable? How does he attempt to earn the reader's trust? He explains that he is the narrator, "because it is the story of my life—and of the people I love most." Is he right? Was his loyalty to Maddy actually a flaw that complicated or exacerbated matters?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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