Morality Tale

“Unflinching… lively, intelligent prose” —Boston Globe

Morality Tale is a novel about the triangular complications in a modern marriage, and the comedy that flows from them.
“‘Isn’t attraction mysterious?’ asks the narrator of Morality Tale, Sylvia Brownrigg’s divinely deadpan fourth novel, about an undernourished marriage and a love affair of the unconsummated kind… Brownrigg’s writing will remind readers of Carol Shields, whose quirky adjectives gave texture to her writing in a way that seemed effortlessly engaging and astute. Brownrigg describes an oversize diamond as ‘garish and nervous’ and reduces a man’s lost love to ‘an overwhelming sense memory of the taste of her pound cake.’ Breathes there a more or less happily domesticated man or woman who hasn’t experienced an extramarital crush? How interesting then, and how brave to tell a quiet, patient, witty tale in which ‘the 3 a.m. fantasies of our bodies together, Richard’s and mine, were going to remain in their packaging, unopened, untested.'” (Read the full review) —Elinor Lipman, New York Times Book Review


Available in hardcover and paperback.



“{Brownrigg’s} quirky style makes every line count; she employs a kind of lively writing which recalls the work of Laurie Colvin. In fact, her narrative is punctuated with such concentrated wit that by this point in the story, more than halfway through the book, one may have forgotten its title and intent. Yet for all its crazy humour and diverting jumble of events, it is a morality tale. Good must be rewarded and the wicked punished, although there is nothing predictable about the route to this almost-happy ending.” —Times Literary Supplement

Morality Tale is, essentially, just that: a meditation on marriage vows and the pros and cons of infidelity. Sylvia Brownrigg’s humour is exhilarating — frost-bright and sharp — yet there is real warmth here, too; she renders with tender exactitude the tangles of attraction, need and love. Not just for second wives, but for women everywhere, this is a pleasure from beginning to end.” —The Daily Mail

“Brownrigg’s mordant tale of modern marriage…Refreshingly honest, winsomely self-deprecating, Brownrigg’s glib yet contrite heroine evinces both a saucy innocence and tortured anguish.” —Booklist

“A witty parable, a slight but subtle dissection of modern marriage, its ideals and banalities, ghosts and bit-part players… Illuminated by its sympathy toward its oddly innocent cast of characters, it presents the dilemmas of daily commitment and redemption in a form even burnt-out cynics might find palatable.” (Read the full review.) —San Francisco Chronicle

“A tragicomic tale of woe told in chirpy tones… Pan is spirited, with a talent for caricature. She sharply dissects the plight of a second wife. Surely, the moral she draws from her story—that husbands and wives need to treat each other with regard—is a worthy lesson.”
Los Angeles Times

“In this slim, devastating novel, the marvelously talented Sylvia Brownrigg tells us more about the emotional politics of modern marriage—and divorce—than I can remember reading in a long time. It’s a bulletin from the front lines: timely, true, and at its heart surprisingly tender.” —Ann Packer

“It is a sign of a remarkable talent when an author can write with the kind of unflinching honesty that Brownrigg brings to to bear on this precise dissection of a marriage, and still make us laugh. From the rueful, cringing smile to the out and out guffaw, this book is shockingly funny. A tragic delight.” —Ayelet Waldman

“This novel is relentlessly thoughtful, a jittery and patient account of small acts and enormous repercussions. I read it in a day, but I’ll think about it for many, many days to come.” —Daniel Handler