The War of the Roses (novel)

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The War of The Roses
Landmark 2004 paperback edition
AuthorWarren Adler
CountryUnited States
PublisherWarner Books Inc
Publication date
April 1981
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages263 pp
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3551.D64 W37
Followed byThe Children of the Roses 

The War of the Roses (1981) is a novel by Warren Adler.[1]

Plot introduction[edit]

The War of the Roses tells the story of Jonathan and Barbara Rose, and their descent from a picturesque family life into a world of macabre self-destruction.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel begins quietly, introducing Jonathan and Barbara as they are introduced to each other for the first time. Some years later, they are living the good life in a Washington, D.C., suburb. They have a dream house, filled with a lifetime’s worth of antiques that they have collected, two children (Eve and Josh), a dog and a cat. Jonathan’s law career could not be better, and they have recently hired an au pair to aid in the upkeep of the house and the children as Barbara has embarked in a gourmet business endeavour. She has received a small amount of acclaim for her pâté.

Somewhere along the road to building to this ideal family unit, Barbara fell out of love with Jonathan. She realizes it when Jonathan has what is believed to be a heart attack. Suddenly, it would not be so bad if he died. She would not be distraught. Jonathan, on the other hand, only thinks of his wife as he is rushed to the hospital and cannot understand why she did not come to his bedside as he waited for the prognosis.

Upon returning home, Barbara tells him their marriage is over and it has been for some time and he never realized it.

Barbara hires the best divorce attorney in town. Smart enough not to represent himself, Jonathan puts an attorney of his own on a retainer. Jonathan would like the divorce to go smoothly. He offers Barbara a generous monthly allowance, as well as half of everything they have. That is not enough. She wants it all, the house and all of its contents. She has earned it, putting the house together and making it a home they both wanted. She raised his children in the house. It belongs to her. Jonathan had to work to provide for her, the family, and the home. He cannot let her have it so easily.

He opts not to move out, citing an old legal precedent which permits a couple to live under the same roof while going through a divorce. Barbara is less than thrilled at the prospect of having him continue to live there.

Despite the warnings of their attorneys, both take it upon themselves to make the other miserable. It begins with small acts of sabotage, but soon escalates. Only the children are off-limits, everything else, from careers to prized possessions, is fair game. Their previous life together, a life of love, vanishes as aggression and territoriality engulf them both.


In 1989, The War of the Roses was translated from novel to film, proving to be a huge success both financially and critically.[citation needed] The film starred Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner and was directed by Danny DeVito, who also co-starred.


  1. ^ "Love and Hate". The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. 28 June 1981. Retrieved 17 October 2017.

External links[edit]