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Foreign Bodies Paperback – 1 Apr 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848877366
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848877368
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 377,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


It would be a mistake not to read this wonderful novel. --Sunday Telegraph

Superb ... the relationship between ingenue raw America and elder, cultivated Europe makes [one] turn the pages, fascinated and absorbed. --The Times

Ozick is possessed of a voice distinctly her own... Foreign Bodies is a brilliantly mordant examination of displacement and inheritance. --Guardian

From the Back Cover

An absorbing achievement . . . A nimble, entertaining literary homage, but it is also, chillingly, what James would have called the real thing. "New York Times Book Review"

Cynthia Ozick is a literary treasure. In her sixth novel, she retraces Henry James s "The Ambassadors" and delivers a brilliant, utterly new American classic.

At the center of the story is Bea Nightingale, a fiftyish divorced schoolteacher whose life has been on hold during the many years since her brief marriage. When her estranged, difficult brother asks her to travel to Europe to retrieve a nephew she barely knows, she becomes entangled in the lives of his family. Over the course of a few months she travels from New York to Paris to Hollywood, aiding and abetting her nephew and niece while waging a war of letters with her brother, and finally facing her ex-husband to shake off his lingering sneers from decades past. As she inadvertently wreaks havoc in their lives, every one of them is irrevocably changed.
Raucous, funny, ferocious, and tragic. A literary master, as James was, Ozick makes all those qualities fit together seamlessly, and with heartbreaking effect. "Philadelphia Inquirer"
Dazzling, even masterful. "Entertainment Weekly"
Cynthia Ozick is the author of numerous acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. She is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize. Her stories have won four O. Henry first prizes.
" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Foreign Bodies", Cynthia Ozick's latest novel, is a brilliant twist on Henry James's "The Ambassadors". Set nearly three-quarters of century after James's novel, immediately after World War II, "Foreign Bodies" can be seen as the former's mirror image. However, that would be a most simplistic - if not derivative - means of describing it, especially when Ozick has created one of the most memorable characters I have encountered in recent contemporary fiction; Bea Nightingale. Simultaneously irascible and likeable, Nightingale is a veritable force of nature, whose presence disrupts the lives of those around her. She's sent on an errand by her estranged brother to look after his son, her ne'er-do-well nephew, in postwar Paris. There she meets not only her nephew, but his lover, an Eastern European refugee. How she becomes involved with her nephew and his lover is one I'll keep a secret, but it is a secret well worth uncovering via Ozick's elegant ear for dialogue and sparse, but lyrical, descriptive prose. Hers is definitely among the most remarkable literary achievements I have read within recent years. Without question, Ozick has written a modern American literary classic that pays ample homage to its predecessor in spirit, if not in its literary style and content, and yet it is a classic that demonstrates her own unique, quite captivating, literary voice.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Cynthia Ozick, Foreign Bodies

The plot is borrowed from Henry James's The Ambassadors, but there the resemblance ends. This is a book that was shortlisted for the Orange Prize (2012) and it comes with many commendations, including The Times `s assurance that Ozick's eleventh novel is `breathtaking ... a superb story about the reversal of world order and identities.' I'm inclined to agree with the Guardian that `Ozick is possessed of a voice distinctly her own', but when that voice grates on the reader's nerves as this one does most would prefer Henry James's. True, someone should have taught Henry James how to write simple English, just as someone should have told Dickens that sentimentality in fiction is nauseating. Never mind the Orange Prize nomination, the book must be a contender for the greatest number of rhetorical questions in a work of fiction.

The plot, like the prose, is somewhat convoluted, but, to simplify, it deals with the contrast between a heavy father, Marvin Nachtigall, a self-made man of business with no time for aesthetic sensibilities and his no good son, Julien, who escapes from American materialism to the softer, easygoing life of Paris. The angry father then orders his sister, Bea, to bring his son back. When this venture fails his daughter, Iris, repeats the abortive attempt. Both women, however, become seduced by Parisian culture, although Aunt Bea is at first rejected by her niece, who shelters her brother and his new waif-wife, Lili, a Romanian refugee.

The story is told mainly through the eyes of Bea, who, as her name implies goes about doing good - or, rather, trying to - much to the fury of her control freak brother Marvin, an impotent rage-filled observer, whose ambassadors consistently fail him.
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Format: Hardcover
"Foreign Bodies" is the sixth novel by Cynthia Ozick, the highly-respected award-winning American author. With it, she has set herself an interesting challenge: to use the plot of Henry James' The Ambassadors - which he is said to have considered his best work; but to turn the plot around, giving it new meanings. And she's chosen to set the book among Jewish-Americans in the early 1950's, the McCarthy years of loyalty oaths.

Protagonist of the story is Bea Nightingale, fiftyish, divorced New York City English teacher, who has more or less put her life on hold since her divorce. She's estranged from her rich, social climbing, nasty brother Marvin, who lives in Los Angeles, California, and from her ex-husband, who lives rather near him. But she gets an urgent letter from her brother: to please go to Paris, France, and bring back his errant son Julian. She finds Julian, though rather young, married to Lili, an older refugee from Eastern Europe. This trip opens Bea's floodgates: she finds herself jetting from New York to Paris to Hollywood. She becomes more involved than she's ever been with her brother, his wife Margaret, his son, and daughter Iris, and even her ex. And unexpected things keep popping.

Ozick has here done a tour de force, producing a novel that stands very well on its own, and is, in fact, a pleasure to read. It's witty, concise, full of excellent description of very particular people and places. Paris has rarely looked better. Furthermore, I didn't find it at all heavy going, and it kept my interest. I am not familiar with the Henry James work that inspired her, so I really can't speak to the relationship between these books.
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By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 31 July 2012
Format: Paperback
It is the 1950s and Bea Nightingale has taken leave from her teaching job in New York to visit Europe. Her dominating brother Marvin has inveigled her into finding his wayward son Julian who is "somewhere in Paris" and to persuade him to return home. She looks for him and fails in the task. She returns to New York and expects that she will hear no more from Marvin or the rest of his family. But Marvin is not put off so easily and attempts to bully Bea into travelling to France once more. The fact that she has a job to do is of no interest to him.

Bea has had little to do with her brother and his family for years but in the course of the book their lives overlap continually. Also emerging from long ago is her husband, a self-centred man who has found some success as a writer of film music.

Foreign Bodies begins superbly and I was immediately drawn into the shabby post-war atmosphere of Paris. It was easy to understand that Julian preferred a bohemian life with some vague ideas about writing rather than be in California in the stultifying company of his father. However as the book progressed I became more and more irritated by the characters. Bea is obviously a bright and independent woman so it seems odd that she didn't just tell her brother to get out of her life. Similarly she seems to be prepared to put up with incredible rudeness from both her ex-husband and her nephew and niece.

The writing, however, is terrific and apart from loathing most of the characters I enjoyed the book. I assume that the "foreign bodies" are not the Parisians or even Romanian Lili - but her own flesh and blood.
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