Much has already been said about Couples - John Updike 's controversial 1968 novel about the lives and indiscretions of well-off couples living in the suburban town of Tarbox , Boston. At first glance, the novel may seem like a run of the mill erotic novel - tawdry and titillating, but nothing more. This was, in fact, the common perception that greeted the novel on its debut in 1968, hence its notoriety as a 'controversial' novel. Much of its hype, however, is not lost, considering the amount of sex - illicit and otherwise - that graces the pages of the novel , as well as the forthright manner with which Updike boldly discusses these activities . Scandal and notoriety prevented a proper and contextual understanding of Updike 's novel , leaving it languishing in literary purgatory . In time , however , with the changes in society and modern views on sex , Updike 's Couples has , to some degree , been resurrected and reevaluated with a different perspective and point of view . Though still shocking in its extensive discussion of adultery and lecherous behavior in general , the novel has finally emerged from under its tag as a bawdy piece of B-rated literature to become one of Updike 's signature novels. No longer viewed as eroticized sensationalism , the novel is now seen as a representation of Updike 's most striking leitmotif: suburban adultery. If not erotica for eroticism 's sake, what then is the central thought in Updike 's Couples ?