Foreign Affairs Library Binding – May 1990
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"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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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, The Truth about Lorin Jones, Last Resort, and the Pultizer Prize-winning, Foreign Affairs. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Vinnie and Fred are vastly different characters who share common human need: companionship, acceptance, love. Foreign Affairs is the story of the paths each of their lives takes while on this sojourn in England, how each reaches his own moment of truth. Along the way, we are greatly entertained by their independent observations of England and of English high society, of the inherent differences between American and English mannerisms and lifestyles, and of the pretenses we all put forth when interacting with the world. There are also some wonderful secondary characters, who occasionally upstage the two main characters, much to the reader's delight.
The novel moves along splendidly, until the very end, when, unfortunately, Lurie finds it necessary to throw in several plot twists which cater more to the dramatic, and play on coincidence and unfounded surprise. These are so utterly unnecessary that I became angry at Lurie for spoiling such a wonderfully engaging book. Still, despite a few weak moments near the end, this one gets four stars
This book is like reading two separate novels, the chapters regularly flip-flopping between the two protagonists, Vinnie Miner and Fred Turner, whose only correlation is that they are both professors at Corinth University. Such sporadic story-telling has the advantage of keeping things interesting, especially in its opposing perceptions of relative characters. And equally insightful is to exist in the mind of Vinnie and then, a chapter later, to meet Vinnie through Fred's mind or vice versa...(that alone is worth the Pulitzer Prize.) The disadvantage to all this is when one becomes too intrigued with a specific storyline, the reader - not wanting to miss any little mention about the preferred protagonist - is forced to trudge through, what seems to be, an extra long chapter just to return to "the program already in progress."
The humorous and, oftentimes, neurotic Vinnie Miner is a plain fifty-four-year-old woman, comfortably single, and an absolute lover of solitude. She takes delight in her excursion to England in which she does research for her novels regarding children's folklore.
The solemn Fred Turner is almost a complete opposite to Vinnie; he is a handsome twenty-eight-year-old man, miserably married, and desperately seeking to be in the company of others. He despises his trip to England, and loathes the British Museum - hilariously named the "Bowel Movement" by him - where he obtains his research on the poet, John Gay.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A comfortable novel, basically like watching an old movie. I found the main female character to be a little grating but then again, she was supposed to. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fantastic writing that flows fluidly from first to last page, as if the book had been written in one sitting. Read morePublished on May 10 2012 by Sandra M
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. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2004 by skeptic44
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... Read morePublished on Aug. 3 2003
The sometimes overlapping stories of Vinnie Miner and Fred Turner, two Americans conducting literary research in London, prove entertaining, even if a bit contrived. Read morePublished on June 23 2003 by DC20009
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. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2002 by Shilo Nottinghorse
Perhaps it was just my frame of mind, but I found this book a disappointment. I'll admit that it's well written, but I had to MAKE myself finish the book. Read morePublished on March 20 2001
Lurie updates Henry James's perspectives on Americans in England while covering the love lives of the middle-aged. Read morePublished on Feb. 21 2001 by Philip Greenspun