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The Comfort of Strangers [Paperback]

J.K.Rowling
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Early McEwan 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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5.0 out of 5 stars ~The Comfort of Strangers....or was it???~ May 28 2002
By *Q*
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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3.0 out of 5 stars hence, the time zone rule Nov. 4 2001
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing! Dec 3 1999
By Sarah
Format:Paperback
I found The Comfort of Strangers to be dissapointing. At points the use of symbolism by the writer was so blatent it became mundane. For example when Colin and Mary first meet Robert they notice he is wearing a tiny razor blade around his neck. Many events in the plot were left frustratingly unexplained, instead of creating mystery, they cause the story to become unbelievable. One of these such instances is when Colin and Mary see Caroline waving to them on the balcony, although reluctant, they go to visit her. The author offers little more than a vague explanation for this fatal mistake. However although the plot is lacking and tends to lag in areas, the writing does have flashes of brillance. My favourite part in the novel is when Robert describes the ritualitic way his father groomed himself. Ultimately, I think the issues that The Comfort of Strangers raises, are far more interesting to ponder than the book is to read.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Big Waste of Time Dec 21 1998
Format:Paperback
This is one of the worst novels I have ever read in mylife. The plot is totally unconvincing and extremely boring, and thereis no character development. The British couple cannot find a bottle of water to drink in the whole city of Venice, they wake up naked in a strange place and do not wonder where they are, the reader has no clue why they are bored with each other until they meet the sado-masochistic couple, endless and wordy descriptions of Venice, a woman who enjoys it when her husband breaks her ribs. Give me a break! If you want to read good modern British fiction writers, try Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess, John Fowles, Martin Amis, and of course, Salman Rushdie. McEwan is a waste of time, including his Amsterdam in which it is not difficult for the reader to guess the ending and again there is basically no character development.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmasking the veneer of civilization
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. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars Concise novel, excellent writing for Comfort of Strangers
Ian McEwan is a master of painting a vivid picture and telling a gripping tale, while not wasting pulp.. Comfort of strangers is an excellent example. Read more
Published on Sept. 23 2003 by Holden
3.0 out of 5 stars Second Novel by Ian McEwan
I would guess like many readers I came upon this writer's work when he began receiving international acclaim for his work, "Amsterdam", in 1998 when the novel won The Booker Prize. Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2003 by taking a rest
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly Delicious!!
I just finished this book over the weekend. This was the first time I was reading Ian McEwan and loved it, only because of the simple reason: He writes real well. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2002 by Vivek Tejuja
5.0 out of 5 stars What Comfort with Strangers?
I loved the book. Couldn't put it down. Although I didn't feel for any of the characters, I also didn't feel anything against them either. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2001 by John C. Shaw
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful
Well at least it's short. It's true that if you read just a few sentences you can appreciate the prose style. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing
From the back cover, I thought that this would be a book that I could read on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Central Park. Read more
Published on July 23 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars Frightening and Bleak
I think this book is atmospheric and frightening. It is also very ugly. With all the talk about how haunting," and "stylish" the book is, I think it's only fair to warn... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars thoroughly engrossing, remarkable writing
Stylistically, I've never encountered a writer whose vivid, precise descriptions of the characters' immediate surroundings does so much to illuminate and reflect the characters'... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2000 by Sam Sohn
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