The landscape of Couples (Alfred A. Kopf, 1968) is the post-pill paradise of  Middle Class America, and features many of the most well-drawn characters you would never want to know. 

You have to marvel at Updike’s own criticism of his books. Couples, he said,’ is not about sex as such: It's about sex as the emergent religion, as the only thing left.’ (John Updike, "Appendix: One Big Interview," Picked-Up Pieces, New York: Knopf, 1975. p. 505. )

 Rarely in fact have American sexual manners been better portrayed, and as if sex wasn’t hard enough to write about, Couples also comes perfectly rich in period detail.  The junior jet set family of the town of Tarbox are fascinating, and yet one can read Couples and only be increasingly appalled, as you wait for a sympathetic character.  You may inevitably realise you are jealous of the characters, their beauty, their freedoms, the set direction of their lives.  It’s like Ballard and yet there’s nothing surreal about it; and it’s like The Stepford Wives, the 1972 satirical thriller novel by Ira Levin; just so plain crazy that something is going to have to give. 

It’s the prose style of Couples that saves the day however; even if you’re not enjoying the characters or the story, Couples will drive you on with its sweet attention to detail, and the pen sketched brilliance of the tennis matches and pillow talk. It’s good to read Couples so distanced in time and place from the New England of the 1960s, and what you get is a compendium of the worst of the smart American protestant manners of its day, part of a great stream of exurban exploration that also finds it expression in stuff like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962).

Updike's characters are a particular post-war crowd that evolved their own habits and desires, and appear to pretty much abdicate from everything other than their own self-generated concerns, even to the expense of their children who receive a fair helping of neglect.  A lot of the crazy shifts in the book seem to mirror the large amount so alcohol which fuel the characters, but it is everything a satiric novel should be: readable, funny and exaggerated in all the right areas.