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The Comfort Of Strangers Paperback – 5 Jun 1997

3.4 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (5 Jun. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099754916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099754916
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children's novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

Product Description

Review

"No reader will begin The Comfort of Strangers and fail to finish it; a black magician is at work" (New York Times)

"Haunting and compelling" (The Times)

"McEwan, that master of the taciturn macabre, so organises his narrative that, without insisting anything, every turn and glimpse is another tightening of the noose" (Observer)

"As always, McEwan manages his own idiom with remarkable grace and inventiveness; his characters are at home in their dreams and so is he" (Guardian)

"Has you in its stranglehold from the first page to the last. McEwan has honed his prose style (always admirably spare) to tell his tale, and with all the skill of an accomplished torturer, he throws the occasional crumbs of comfort, as the tension becomes unbearable, only to snatch them away within moments" (Listener)

Book Description

Re-jacketed in stunning new series style, The Comfort of Strangers is the second novel from Booker prize-winning, Sunday Times bestselling Ian McEwan.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
`The Comfort of Strangers', McEwan's second novel was published at a time when this bright new talent was causing controversy and had been christened Ian Mcabre by critics shocked by the brutality of his themes and his fearless exploration of dark, previously taboo subjects such as incest, sadomasochism and child abduction. With its theme of unhealthy homoerotic obsession there are echoes of the later Enduring Love here. The story opens with a coldly voyeuristic intrusion into the lives of Colin and Mary, an English couple holidaying in an unnamed European city (assumed to be Venice) in an attempt to recapture the passion that has drained out of their relationship. When we join them they are distant from each other, not speaking and sleeping in separate beds. This gulf is apparent in the fact that even their dreams are at odds. Wandering the city in a torpor late one night they encounter Robert, a smooth talking, cruel and sinister local who seems to mesmerize them against their better instincts and takes them to a seedy bar nearby. Despite being unsettled by the encounter they are persuaded by Robert to visit his home the next day. Here they meet Caroline, his put-upon Canadian wife and quickly detect that something is seriously amiss. It soon becomes clear that the gap between these couples is not as wide as it initially appears. Without a doubt Colin and Mary are complicit in their own downfall and their desires, though previously unrealised, are as unwholesome as those of Robert and Caroline. One theme explored is the impact of fathers on children. Robert speaks of the admirable brutality of his father and Caroline, who defines herself only in relation to men, explains the subservience of her mother and herself to her diplomat father, a pattern repeated in their own relationship.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Being an Ian McEwan fan I couldn't wait to read this. It only took me one sitting and as always was very readable and totally engrossing - causing mounting fear and tension like only McEwan knows how to, with nothing in particular happening but an increasing sensation that something is about to (how does he do that?!). The book is set in Venice which adds to the calm mystique and general atmosphere of the story. The end was shocking - I felt quite sick after reading it. This is definitely one of McEwan's most twisted and chilling reads and I couldn't quite work out whether I had enjoyed it or not. Recommended although definitely not my favourite by the author.
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Format: Paperback
Read Susan Hill's 2008 novella "The Man in the Picture", in which a newly-married couple loses its way in Venice with fatal consequences for the bridegroom. Her book celebrated the mystery of Venice, but was it scary?
Please read Ian McEwan's second novel (1981), then compare and shiver! It deals with Mary and Colin on a weeks-long holiday to Venice and nowhere else. They have been a couple for seven years, but are somehow inert, silent, unable to plan ahead or live their daily lives: forgetting their town plan, they lose their way every day. This novella has been written in a more languid voice than Susan Hill's, but in a far more intrusive manner. Readers wish for a quick grip on a story, but McEwan does not allow this. Right from the start, his tale is full of dark portents...

Mary has 2 children who stay with their dad in a UK commune. She was an actor in a woman's collective, now defunct. Colin tried singing, then acting, no more info, except that he looks cute. In my view, the couple appears doomed from page one. They do not behave like normal tourists and fall prey to mysterious black-clad Robert, first acting as a guide, then as owner of an underground gay bar with a jukebox emitting blue light like an ambulance or policecar that blasts out again and again the same pumping, shrieking song, whose refrain "Ha, ha, ha" is sung along loudly by the black-clad clientele of cruisers.
The refrain shortened for copyright reasons(?), the tune must be the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", a worldwide disco hit and another clue among several about impending death McEwan planted in this tragedy.
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Format: Paperback
Surreal is an overworked word these days but it fits this novella. Enigmatic too. McEwan is spare with his words yet creates a melodramatic impact and this style has become something of a trademark. Though on a heavier scale this was a cross between the langourous work of Kazuo Ishiguro and the febrile writing of D H Lawrence, yet more macabre, sexual as opposed to sensual. Some might argue, and I would accept, pornographic.

There are two descriptions of faces, one male, one female, and these are unlike anything I have read before, with intense picturesque detail and examination of every facial feature contained within one paragraph.

Is this Venice? I'm not convinced, though I'm aware that this is the accepted location. Does it matter where it is set and we are not told? On one level I think it does - McEwan is teasing us, intensifying the mystery.

I didn't enjoy reading this. In fact it made me quite uncomfortable, yet, once started it had to be finshed to find where it was going, though I had a sense of how it would end.

It is not a book to enjoy but to thrill at the language and study the psychology. I might even want to say that parts of it are sick. Whatever goes on in McEwan's mind he is amazingly adept at translating it to the page.
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