5.0 out of 5 stars Good Early McEwan
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...
Published on June 10 2003 by H. F. Corbin
3.0 out of 5 stars hence, the time zone rule
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...
Published on Nov. 4 2001 by Orrin C. Judd
Most Helpful First | Newest First
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Early McEwan,
This review is from: The Comfort of Strangers (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.
5.0 out of 5 stars ~The Comfort of Strangers....or was it???~,
.............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!
3.0 out of 5 stars hence, the time zone rule,
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.
On the upside, the book offers further proof, as if any was needed, of the fundamental wisdom of the Time Zone Rule. This holds that you should never, ever, under any circumstances, leave the Eastern Time Zone of the United States.
GRADE : C-
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing!,
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.
1.0 out of 5 stars A Big Waste of Time,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, but not for the faint of heart,
By A Customer
Although this work was published in 1981, I have read McEwan's more recent novels and was vastly impressed with his insight into the pecadillos of human nature and particularly, their logical, (although sometimes despicable) conclusions. Sometimes it feels like he took lessons from the Twilight Zone, but interpreted the lessons to their most metaphysical outcome.
This novel depicts a consuming, devoted,, (though sometimes taken-for-granted)love between a young couple that ends sorrowfully in catastrophe, not of their own making; albeit the friendship Colin and Mary unwittingly develop with Caroline and John is a lethal one.
The characters are developed with such precision that the reader cannot bear the outcome. This author is a genius and a breaker of hearts.
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. The story centers around two so-called-lovers , Colin and Mary are vacationing in Venice ( We assume that the place is Venice as it is never once mentioned in the book, but the descriptions are good enough to reach that conclusion: Wonder why McEwan did not add the name of the place?)and suddenly bump into a couple - a rather strange couple - Robert and Caroline who seem to be quite odd and it is maybe this weirdness that attracts them to the couple. After this, I won't give away more..All I can say is that this 134 page book was an amazing read for me!! Truly enigmatic!!
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' increasingly fragile psyches. McEwan employs this ability of his to mesmerizing effect. As you progress through this novella, you'll encounter little nooks of crannies of this unnamed European city, sidestreets, alleyways and the abode of an enigmatic couple. McEwan's facility with words enables him to depict these various spots as though they contained powers of their own, as though they were all conspiring with one another to bring the protagonists to an untimely end. This all portends the final outcome of the book. It was pretty chilling.
3.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing,
By A Customer
From the back cover, I thought that this would be a book that I could read on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Central Park. In my naivete, I didn't realize that it would be the kind of book that would continue to disturb my thoughts even after I shelved it unfinished. This book produces nightmares. It's well-written. It captures the mood of traveling. But, unfortunately, it will be a book that I am simply unable to pick up again with a plot I'd prefer to forget. Having said all this, I know a person whose literary taste (and stronger stomach) I hightly respect who has admitted that it was this book that caused him to run out and buy all of Ian McEwan's books.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Minor-Masterpiece,
By A Customer
I don't understand the criticism I've read about the plausibility, or the lack thereof, of the plot of TCOS. How plausible are our dreams, or our nightmares? In TCOS, and in his equally disquieting novel, The Cement Garden, McEwan creates characters with no moral grounding, who wander unconsciously through life. This seems to me the essential quality of his characters. Is this so implausible? Haven't we all encountered people who drift dreamily through their lives. For me, McEwan's fiction is too painfully real and, I believe, Ian McEwan is very deserving of whatever praise he receives.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan (Hardcover - Dec 16 1996)
Used & New from: CDN$ 349.64