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on 8 December 2012
I overlooked this Ian McEwan book previously, but looked it up after reading Sweet Tooth recently. I did look at the reviews of others before I bought and was a little discouraged by some. However I really enjoyed the book.
Some reviewers seemed to attach great importance to the fact that the author does not name the location, and also that some of the action is a little beyond belief - however surely the locations, activities and motivations, thoughts and desires created by an author of fiction are essentially dreamed up and strung together skillfully to entertain and sometime challenge the reader. If it is a travelogue and action always in line with your predictable logic then you probably wont always get satisfaction from this kind of creative author
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** spoiler alert ** REVIEW THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS by Ian McEwan
SPOILER ALERT for Jane Eyre & Comfort of Strangers! I want to preface this with a nod to Barthes's The Death of the AuthorImage Music Text as I have read several of the reviews on this page and some of them find a different sense of focus from the one that I read in this work, and apologies to McEwan if this review finds your work not the way you meant it; yet it is all there in the text....
I won't give the ending of McEwan's work away. I re-read it as I wanted to rewrite the review I was working on and wrote this shorter review for the time being; timely as On Chesil Beach is being made into a film this year.
For Bronte in order for Rochester to converse with Jane on equal terms it was necessary for him to become a woman, to dress up as a female fortune teller. In order for her heroine Jane to achieve equality in a man’s world Rochester must first be diminished: maimed and blinded. This suggests that for a man to live in a man’s world is dangerous to his survival. Be patient there is a connection; I’m getting to it. Mc’Ewan's The Comfort of Strangers has a similar denouement and fate for its male protagonist Colin; Colin is seduced and disrupted, weakened first by his refusal to conform to the bisexual homoerotic scenes which he encounters when on holiday with his wife, and then half drowned by his own inability to swim (a metaphor for the repeated inability for McEwan's protagonist Colin to settle into his maleness completely) thinking that it is his wife who is in trouble the whole time, when in fact it is him who flounders; then tricked by a couple who seem intent on Colin’s complete annihilation. The impending doom for Colin is set up in the early chapters when his wife remarks, ‘Thank God I’m not a man,…’ (McEwan, p.17). The whole novel reads like a consumption of the male identity, and unravels in this way, throwing up morsals of maleness and unmaleness in equal measure and cleverly, cunningly destabilizing the reader. Both denouements (134 years apart) suggest a sinister subduing and suffocating of the masculine. Bronte’s heroine marries one male but not when he is at the height of his powers, when he is maimed and blinded, and kills off the religious other at the end of her novel, which if we believe Jane to be pious and good surely is the opposite outcome we expect. McEwan’s narrative gradually undermines and erodes the masculinity of his character Colin, at every turn we are led to believe that it is the feminine other whose frailty is at stake when what is at stake is something much less clear until the very end when with sinister precision McEwan makes clear what we have suspected he is up to all along. McEwan has created a stunning feminist story.
Review by Hermione Laake
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on 21 December 2012
A novel which seems to be about a very ordinary couple going on holiday in Venice turns into a shocking story about how people let themselves be lured into danger, conniving in their own degradation. One of those books which takes the minority view on Venice, portraying it as a threatening, seedy place, "The Comfort of Strangers" also shows the disturbing side of sex. It is so well-planned that you could read it twice in order to seek out all the clues and hints that McEwan planted early on. Colin and Mary's sex life takes off in Venice, after years in which it was not far off non-existent. At one stage they create horrible sexual fantasies for each other which, in unaroused moments, they then find repellent. But it seems that a trigger for their new-found closeness is a sub-conscious realisation in both that they are putting their safe existences in danger. Ian McEwan has to be one of the best writers on sex around. The Comfort Of Strangers
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on 13 July 2011
I find McEwan's writing somewhat addictive and binge-provoking. His strength is in taking the reader gently into a quiet place, and then as it turns dark, gripping him by the throat and forcing him to watch the night unfold. Once you are in the heads of the protagonists, there is no escape.

The Comfort of Strangers shares a certain stylistic approach with On Chesil Beach: Dual protagonists which at times blur into a single composite entity. I will turn away from spoiling the plot for the unwary by telling how one feels at the end of the tale, except to say that you will feel something.

McEwan is a master of defamiliarisation, which is what makes his sometimes 'mundane' scenarios so compelling, in turn leaving you unprepared for the lurking strangeness.

The Comfort of Strangers is arguably a tragedy of Shakespearian scope, and thus conveys most of its disturbing drama via the sense of the inescapable in the yet self-inflicted fate of the protagonists.

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on 8 September 2015
I always enjoy Ian McEwan's writings, but I found this one particularly atmospheric. From the outset there is an air of mystery- where is all this going on and what exactly does the title mean? The use of language, with very little"direct speech" added to the air of mystery and the tension built up throughout the book. Do not wish to write a spoiler, but it is very much a page turner with very little relief at the end. Buy it, read it. You will enjoy it. Great length too - long enough for characters to develop short enough for interest to be maintained and not too many characters so no confusion as to who is who.
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on 5 April 2017
Bought as a present
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on 4 August 2017
Slow-developing and dark, it gets you inside a secret world and holds you there until it's too uncomfortable to look, but too irresistible not to.
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on 19 July 2017
Sadly I discovered I'd read it before and not liked it much the first time round so didn't finish it! His other stuif is much better thankfully!
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on 8 April 2017
Sound McEwan book. As expected!
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on 9 February 2015
A strange unnerving read throughout. Kept me reading to find out what was to come right until the very end. Quite a creepy story.
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