Infidelity and Other Affairs | Kate Legge #AWWmemoir

Affairs are a little like childbirth. Someone is always having one somewhere, usually right under the nose of a spouse because nobody knows everything that happens inside a marriage, not even the people in it.

I have no idea how I’m going to respond to this memoir.

To say Infidelity and Other Affairs has generated a buzz in certain circles is an understatement. My bookshop hosted an author event during the week with Kate Legge – it sold out quickly thanks to the number of journalists and writers who call Balmain home. Over the past month or so many have told me how they know Legge and her former husband through the various roles and jobs they have had over the years. They are all agog that Legge has written this incredibly personal, revealing memoir with the apparent consent of her husband who read the manuscript and was given a chance for editorial comment.

The buzz began when our rep handed over an advance reading copy back in November saying that this is the book that had his office in a spin, that Legge was available for author talks and we should seriously consider it. But a book about an affair? Really? Does anyone truly care about other people’s dirty laundry? And what could possibly be said about affairs that hasn’t already been said before?

The blurb provides a clue:

When faced with her husband’s affair, she discovered a fault line of betrayal running through four generations of his family, which began a search for answers both close to home and more universally.

Infidelity and Other Affairs begins with this puzzle: is unfaithfulness a predisposition or a learned behaviour? From there, Legge contemplates a vast catalogue of behaviours as she strives to understand how we become who we are.

To her own surprise, she finds strength and peace over revenge and hate, as well as joy in unexpected places.

Infidelity and Other Affairs became my new lunch time read that very day. I was curious AND I was on a mission to see if it really would make an interesting author talk or not. It quickly joined Heather Rose’s Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here in the “you’re not going to believe what happened next?” post-lunch conversations with my colleagues.

Legge begins by telling us the tale of an ordinary marriage. One based on friendship, raising children and juggling work in overseas regions far from family and friends. After thirty years and a return to Australia, Legge then reveals the pain, shock and anger at discovering that her husband was having an affair, quite possibly two affairs, right under her very nose. One of the women was a close, intimate friend.

Obvioulsy things go pear-shaped, but not overnight.

They attempt to work things out. Part of this involved tackling the family history. As it turns out, her husbands father had an affair, as did his grandmother. During this process of trying to understand what, why and how, it is discovered that their son has also had an affair. Legge suddenly finds herself in the bizarre situation of feeling complete empathy for her daughter-in-law yet trying to defend and support her son at the same time.

The search for answers leads Legge and her husband back to Broken Hill to talk to the few remaining family members who remember the grandparents, as well as some frank conversations with her mother-in-law.

I’m not going to reveal anymore; you’ll have to read the book yourself for that. But this is NOT a story about excuses or blame, or trying to shift the blame onto genetics or something else beyond our control. It is one woman’s attempt to share her story in the hope it will heal, or ‘mend each other‘, as she said in the author talk on Thursday night.

The marriage did not survive the affair of course.

Once suspicion, betrayal and lying exists between two people it is virtually impossible for trust to remain. Legge explains that ‘distrust is a burdensome guilt to shoulder and a difficult burden to shift‘ and it is this comment that gets to the nub of her story. Infidelity and Other Affairs was written with the full knowledge of her former husband. He read the manuscript, and although his version of the story is skewed more towards making it easier to live with himself, he acknowledged the truth of her version.

He has strong views that buttress his behaviour and tame the guilt, and he’s crafted a narrative to protect his character.

This was not a hatchet job.

The book, and the author talk, were all about acknowledging and accepting more than one ‘truth’. She discussed her own flaws and the things about herself that might be difficult to live with, for this story is ultimately about forgiveness. Legge does not want to perpetuate the damage by begetting more damage. She doesn’t want to permanently live with anger, grief and jealousy. And she doesn’t want to spend her days going over old grievances and hurts, or nurse a grudge going forward. She wants to treasure what she has right now.

Legge is still on friendly terms with her former husband. Her philosophy is ‘it feels so much better if you can forgive.’

Title: Infidelity and OIher Affairs
Author: Kate Legge
Imprint: Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd
Published: 28 February 2023
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 224
Dates Read: 28 November 2022 - 16 December 2022
This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.

14 thoughts on “Infidelity and Other Affairs | Kate Legge #AWWmemoir

  1. Pingback: 2022 | The Books
  2. I would be interested but it’s probably low priority for me. What would interest me , besides the family “trend” issue (because nature versus nurture is something I often think about) but because I love stories about forgiveness. It is such an important trait? value? behaviour? (what is it?) I absolutely detest revenge stories!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As often happens with the (fascinating I agree) Nature/Nurture debate, Legge was not really able to say one way or the other in the end. As is usually the case, it is a bit of both with some individual personal agency thrown in. In the book she lists a number of reasons why people have affairs – they were a roll call of personal issues, time of life, previous experiences, opportunity etc. In the end I came away from it still firmly believing that it is a choice to have an affair or not.

      I also think that forgiveness is a behaviour that one can choose to do or not. It is something you can learn – the opposite of resentment and vengeance.


      1. Agree with all you say here, particularly re affairs. Nature or nurture may help us understand things, but in most things we do have agency too. And this is certainly one of those.


        1. I think somewhere in there as well, is the value you place on trust. If you want people to trust you then you have to act in trustworthy ways. (Trust not tryst thank you preemptive text!!)


  3. I have no reason to be interested in Legge or her family or her husband’s family. As you say, the issues raised are interesting in themselves, but I suspect would have made a better novel than memoir.


    1. Me either, but sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype of something new at work.
      I probably wouldn’t have read a novel about this topic, but one memoir is enough.


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