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Foreign Affairs [Library Binding]

Alison Lurie
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1990 0785799532 978-0785799535

Virginia Miner, a fifty-something, unmarried tenured professor, is in London to work on her new book about children’s folk rhymes. Despite carrying a U.S. passport, Vinnie feels essentially English and rather looks down on her fellow Americans. But in spite of that, she is drawn into a mortifying and oddly satisfying affair with an Oklahoman tourist who dresses more Bronco Billy than Beau Brummel.

Also in London is Vinnie’s colleague Fred Turner, a handsome, flat broke, newly separated, and thoroughly miserable young man trying to focus on his own research. Instead, he is distracted by a beautiful and unpredictable English actress and the world she belongs to.

Both American, both abroad, and both achingly lonely, Vinnie and Fred play out their confused alienation and dizzying romantic liaisons in Alison Lurie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Smartly written, poignant, and witty, Foreign Affairs remains an enduring comic masterpiece.

“A splendid comedy, very bright, brilliantly written in a confident and original manner. The best book by one of our finest writers.”
–Elizabeth Hardwick

“There is no American writer I have read with more constant pleasure and sympathy. . . . Foreign Affairs earns the same shelf as Henry James and Edith Wharton.”
–John Fowles

“If you manage to read only a few good novels a year, make this one of them.”
USA Today

“An ingenious, touching book.”

“A flawless jewel.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

From the Trade Paperback edition.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Product Description


"The seventh and latest work of fiction by Alison Lurie, who teaches English at Cornell University and has quietly but surely established herself as one of this country's most able and witty novelists... Wonderfully stimulating for its sheer performance as a novel." -- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt New York Times "I am convinced that Alison Lurie's fiction will long outlast that of many currently more fashionable names. There is no American writer I have read with more constant pleasure and sympathy over the years. Foreign Affairs earns the same shelf as Henry James and Edith Wharton" -- John Fowles Sunday Times "A brilliant novel - her best I think. The book is a triumph, and not simply of style...Foreign Affairs is witty, acerbic, and sometimes fiendishly clever" -- Paul Bailey Evening Standard "Warm, clever and funny" Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Alison Lurie's non fiction books include studies of folklore and children's literature, and her novels include such favourites as The War Between the Tates, Foreign Affairs, The Truth about Lorin Jones and Last Resort.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine book May 10 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fantastic writing that flows fluidly from first to last page, as if the book had been written in one sitting. Not a subject matter I was passionate about at first glance (American scholars abroad, really?) but the deep dive into 2 human hearts was very satisfying.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Yin and Yang: Two Lives, Two Loves July 10 2004
In alternating chapters devoted to each character, six months in the life of Virginia ("Vinnie") Miner, an unmarried Ivy League college professor for whom the sweet bird of youth has long flown away, are contrasted with the same period in the life of Fred Turner - young and handsome, and a junior faculty member of the same Ivy League college. Although they barely know each other, they are both members of the English department and are both on sabbatical in London at the same time doing research.
Their stories are studies in contrast and in similarities. Fred is lonely, having recently become estranged from his wife; Fred loathes England (at least, at first). Vinnie is beyond lonely - at 54, she has settled into a life of comforting routine, even if the routine involves frequent trips to her beloved England. Fred turns heads; Vinnie is "the sort of person no one ever notices."
They each find romance in England. Fred is upwardly mobile - he falls in love with a beautiful and aristocratic actress of some fame. Vinnie is shocked to find herself having a romance with a sanitary engineer from Tulsa, a man who rarely reads books and with whom she would barely have deigned to have talked had they not been thrown together.
Which of these two relationships goes on to become a life-love, and which ends in humiliating farce? It is the genius of this book that the answer, like life itself, remains unpredictable throughout the novel, right up to its surprising end. This novel was highly deserving of the Pulitzer Prize.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read! Jan. 6 2004
Not only did I enjoy this book tremendously, but I recently recommended it to my 79 y.o. mother. She also enjoyed the book, and is now looking for more books by Ms. Lurie to read.
Although published several years ago, the characters and subject matter are still timely (and funny!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written book Aug. 4 2003
By A Customer
I picked this book up recently at my college library with pretty modest expectations. Upon reading the first couple of paragaphs, however, I realized that this was a much bigger work han I previously thought. Lurie is a wonderful writer and her talents are on full display here. Whether writing of the view from Vinnie's window or the flighty temperament of Rosemary Radley, everything is top-notch. This is a wonderful comic novel with a bittersweet, sad ending. Necessary reading.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Humorous Tales of Americans in London June 23 2003
Format:Library Binding
The sometimes overlapping stories of Vinnie Miner and Fred Turner, two Americans conducting literary research in London, prove entertaining, even if a bit contrived. The earlier portions of the stories are much better at communicating the tongue-in-cheek narrative on American perceptions of England (and American perceptions of America) and some of the dialogue and musings that Lurie provides for Miner are down right hysterical.
This is very easy and pleasant read. The strength of this book is Lurie's ability to provide satirical and witty commentary on life in general and on life abroad. The power of this is diluted as the focus of the book changes from that commentary to the details of a story which become overdramatized. In doing this, Lurie loses much of the cleverness contained in the first three-quarters of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece about England and America Feb. 26 2003
I recently re-read Foreign Affairs, and having adored it twelve years ago was amazed at how delightful, clever and funny it still is. Two American academics, the plain, wryly self-pitying Vinnie, and handsome young Fred, are both English teachers on sabbatical from Corinth University in London. Vinnie loves England, which she conflates with her love of children's classics, and a sort of prim moral and social superiority. Sitting next to an ignorant Mid-Westerner, Chuck, she disdains him pretty much as Lurie's readers would, too, only to be gradually captivated by his underlying good qualities.
Fred, too, finds his miserable experience of London transformed by an affair with a titled actress, who despite her refined charms (the complete opposite to those of his estranged Jewish wife, Ruth) turns out to be less wholesome than perceived. As with all Lurie's novels, the characters in it are interlinked to those in previous books (Ruth is Ruth Zimmern, whom some may remember from Only Children). The allusions to Henry James are done with grace, but what really impresses is the wit and perfection of style Lurie brings to her subject of American innocence and British corruption. For British readers it's wonderfully refreshing to see ourselves through such a diamond-sharp lens... I also recommend The Last Resort as a mordant satire on death and love.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Was 1985 a slow year for novels? Oct. 18 2002
I have read about a quarter of all the books that have won the Pulitzer, and I am attempting to read them all in the next year or so. I think 1985 may have been a slow year for writers. This book is good, yes, but Pulitzer good? No. I never really connected with either character, and felt that some of the writing, for lack of a better word, was cheesy (i.e the entire "Fido" creation). Compared with the Pulitzer winners from the years before and after, the book is weak. This may be an unfair criticism, and maybe the Pulitzer stamp on the front of the book lead to unfair expectations, but the book just does not do "it" for me. And that undefineable "it" is what makes me not recommend this book to other readers.
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