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The Comfort of Strangers Paperback – 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Anchor (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679749845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679749844
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,189,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I recently revisited this book and it was as fresh, beautiful, and haunting as all of McEwan's novels. A couple on holiday visit a city that seems to be Venice but is unnamed. They've been together seven years and have become so close they are like identical twins still in the womb, so in synchrony there is a dullness to their connection and lives. Even in this new city, the sleepy spell between them isn't really broken, and one night when they get lost in the city it feels like they are lost within themselves, unable to find their way out of the predictable comforts that protect them from the world - a shared humor, an intellectual way of looking at the world, a surrender to sexual playfulness. As events become more sinister, you become aware of how your own life is filled with a veneer of comforts that are largely illusory, a kind of affirmative lie that we cling to as protection. The climax of the novel is almost unimaginable and leaves you breathless. But what I love most about this novel, and all of McEwan's novels, are his beautiful insights about character, about the often amusing and unarticulated way that we all perceive the world, and the machinations of life itself.
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By Foster Corbin on June 10 2003
Format: Hardcover
Many of the trademarks we have come to expect in McEwan novels are already here in this early novel published in the U. S. in 1981, the ironic title, the complexity, the psychological tension, the ambiguities, the questions left unanswered. I was handicapped in reading this novel in that I had already seen the movie so it was impossible not to see Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson getting lost in those maze-like alleys in Venice. (Nowhere in this slim novel, however, does McEwan name the city where the sinister action takes place.} On the other hand, since I knew the outcome, I could look for and admire the clues the author gives as to what will happen. McEwan does an excellent job of setting the tone for what ultimately occurs early in the novel. As early as page 17: "Colin and Mary had never left the hotel so late, and Mary was to attribute much of what followed to this fact." There are lots of references to the sexual tension between men and women in addition to many homoerotic allusions throughout the book that prepare you, at least in part, for the shattering climax of this horrific little novel.
McEwan always gives the reader a story that appeals both to the intellect and the emotions. As usual, he doesn't disappoint us. One of the joys of living in these times is awaiting a new McEwan novel.
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Format: Paperback
.............Wow, what a wild ride this was.
It's about Mary and Colin, a dating couple in a stale 7 year relationship. While on vacation in an un-named location, which you are never told where they are but you know they are amongst lots of other tourists, open air cafe's by the ocean, narrow cobble stone streets, ruins and assorted attractions.
One night the couple set out to have a late dinner and become lost. A strange but friendly man named Robert comes to their rescue or so it seems......Robert takes them to a bar which has no food and gets them drunk as he tells them stories about his childhood and his wife Caroline.
Later they run into Robert again and he invites them to his home so he can make up for the other night promising to feed them and introduce them to his wife. That's when ........it all begins........!
I will not give any more away, but Mary and Colin end up recapturing their love only to find themselves involved in something like the "Twilight Zone". I could not put this book down. The ending will amaze you!
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Format: Paperback
That James M. Cain was a genius is never more evident than when you watch other authors try to make a character's participation in his own degradation and his eager embrace of certain doom seem plausible. In Ian McEwan's Comfort of Strangers, an unhappy British couple, Colin and Mary, are in the moidst of a perfectly horrid vacation in Venice when they meet Robert, a cheesy seeming, imitation disco king, Eurotrash, local bar owner. He takes them under his wing and tells them the brutal but very amusing story of growing up with a domineering father who favors him and several bitterly jealous sisters. Later he takes them back to meet his rather ephemeral, somewhat crippled wife, who tells them, as they are leaving, that she is Robert's prisoner.
For no apparent reason, this encounter rekindles the passion between Colin and Mary, though they studiously avoid discussing the episode and seek to avoid any subsequent meetings with Robert. Inevitably, they do eventually see him again and the results are predictably ugly.
Stories like this one, which require the reader to suspend disbelief as the actors venture further and further into the abyss are extremely hard to pull off, so it's not surprising that McEwan doesn't quite manage it. First off, Colin and Mary are so unsympathetic that, as in The Sheltering Sky which it in some ways resembles, we eagerly await the tourists getting their just desserts. More troubling, Robert, despite his one captivating story, is so obviously shady that Colin and Mary seem totally stupid for getting involved with him. An author can get away with making his characters naive, but at the point where the reader is yelling at them and calling them idiots for following along with the novel's plot, that author has lost control of his own narrative.
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