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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. 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,...
Published 4 months ago by Bill Thompson

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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. But after 50 pages you might wonder why the author needed to spend that many pages just showing an aimless couple wandering around on vacation. None of that prose adds up to a thing.
Around page 50 they meet a mysterious man. It's all very crassly done, like...
Published on Sept. 22 2001


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5.0 out of 5 stars Unmasking the veneer of civilization, March 22 2014
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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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, Sept. 22 2001
By A Customer
Well at least it's short. It's true that if you read just a few sentences you can appreciate the prose style. But after 50 pages you might wonder why the author needed to spend that many pages just showing an aimless couple wandering around on vacation. None of that prose adds up to a thing.
Around page 50 they meet a mysterious man. It's all very crassly done, like something written by a student. No character feels remotely real.
Then for forty pages the main characters wonder about this mysterious new friend and his wife or girlfriend or whatever she is. Forty more pages to yawn through.
Then at page 90 an odd discovery, and then the bizarre, unrealistic, unbelievable, and gross, ending. An ending that has nothing to do with anything really. It's just very sick and violent. It comes from nowhere and leaves you dissatisfied.
I suppose Ian McEwan thought he was making some point, something about power relationships (oh very trendy!), but it's pretty thin. I've noticed that several bad authors do the following: they take a wisp of a philosophical idea that they haven't really thought out, and so they know they could never really write an essay or a non-fiction book about it. The ideas are too thin and incomplete. But then they hit on a brainstorm. They can write a novel that puts forwad this philosophical idea and they'll be forgiven for not having thought it through because, after all, it's only a story. Don Dellilo's "White Noise" has been accused of this. Italo Calvino makes a living off of it as does Mulan Kundera. Anyway, the consequence is a very manipulative plot-based novel or worse, a bad essay disguised as a novel, with little to no character development.
That is exactly the case with "The Comfort of Strangers". Let's put it this way, if Ian McEwan didn't already have a huge reputation he never could have gotten this published.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Concise novel, excellent writing for Comfort of Strangers, Sept. 24 2003
By 
Holden (Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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. As I read I could visualize the scenes. McEwan is hard to put down. I did not feel much emotional connection to any of the characters but I doubt I was supposed to. Recommended read...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Early McEwan, June 10 2003
By 
H. F. Corbin "Foster Corbin" (ATLANTA, GA USA) - See all my reviews
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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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ~The Comfort of Strangers....or was it???~, May 28 2002
.............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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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly Delicious!!, Jan. 21 2002
By 
Vivek Tejuja "vivekian" (mumbai, maharashtra, india) - See all my reviews
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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!!
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3.0 out of 5 stars hence, the time zone rule, Nov. 4 2001
By 
Orrin C. Judd "brothersjudddotcom" (Hanover, NH USA) - See all my reviews
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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-
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5.0 out of 5 stars What Comfort with Strangers?, Oct. 17 2001
By 
John C. Shaw (HOUSTON, TEXAS USA) - See all my reviews
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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. It is amazing how it is the story not the characters that McEwan creates. It is the story you will remember most even if you don't want to remember the story.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, July 23 2001
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.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Frightening and Bleak, Feb. 23 2001
By A Customer
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 the reader that, without going into specifics, it's about homosexual rape and torture.
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The Comfort of Strangers
The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan (Hardcover - Dec 16 1996)
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