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The Comfort of Strangers

The Comfort of Strangers

3.6 11
by Ian McEwan

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As their holiday unfolds, Colin and Maria are locked into their own intimacy. They groom themselves meticulously, as though someone is waiting for them who cares deeply about how they appear. When they meet a man with a disturbing story to tell, they become drawn into a fantasy of violence and obsession.


As their holiday unfolds, Colin and Maria are locked into their own intimacy. They groom themselves meticulously, as though someone is waiting for them who cares deeply about how they appear. When they meet a man with a disturbing story to tell, they become drawn into a fantasy of violence and obsession.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As the best young writer on this island, McEwan's evocations of feeling and place and his analysis of mood and relationship remain haunting and compelling." —The Times (London)

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

"The Maestro." —New Statesman

"McEwan has—a style and a vision of life of his own...No one interested in the state and mood of contemporary Britain can afford not to read him." —John Fowles

"A sparkling and adventurous writer." —Dennis Potter

“McEwan, that master of the taciturn macabre, so organizes his narrative that, without insisting anything, every turn and glimpse is another tightening of the noose. The evils of power and the power of evil are transmitted with a steely coolness, and in a prose that has a feline grace.” —Observer

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of seventeen books, including the novels NutshellThe Children ActSweet ToothSolar, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize; On Chesil BeachSaturdayAtonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award; The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both short-listed for the Booker Prize; Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize; and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award; as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets.

Brief Biography

Oxford, England
Date of Birth:
June 21, 1948
Place of Birth:
Aldershot, England
B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971

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Comfort of Strangers 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
JS312 More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this book, but it did not reach my expectations. Luckily, it was short. I felt like the whole book was dull and there was only the anticipation of some sort climax. The climax came on the last two pages. I felt that McEwan himself must have became bored with writing this story and just wrapped it up in the end. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, even die-hard McEwan fans. Enduring Love and Cement Garden are better than this. Saturday is pretty boring as well.
Dierckx More than 1 year ago
An English couple (Mary and Colin) spend their holiday in a city that bears some resemblance with Venice, Italy. After a few days they meet an other couple (Robert and Caroline) who are Canadians but live in that town since several years. The name of that town is never mentioned but it's of no importance. Like "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann - where the town is only the scene for the impossible love of a sick man for a boy - the city of Ian McEwan is the scene for a man and a woman trying to revive their love for each other. But above all it's the story of their troublesome relationship with the Canadian couple, a relationship that soon will change into a nightmare. During the nighttime, it's a gloomy city with dark and dirty gables, empty streets, no lights in the houses and every bar and restaurant seem to have vanished into thin air. Only one bar is open. The owner of the bar is Robert. It's an obscure place where unsavory men- captivated by the glittering lights of a jukebox- are listening to the music with stern faces. They listen to the same song over and over again while they hold the jukebox as if it were a life-buoy. The most intriguing character is Robert. One evening, while Mary and Colin are having a drink in his bar, Robert comes in. He's dressed in a black jacket and a white open shirt and the smell of cheap perfume lingers around him. He invites the English couple - who should be perfect strangers to him - for dinner in his house. While Caroline and Mary are in the kitchen, the men have a conversation about the parents of Robert. At a given moment Colin has to smile a little about something and David, without saying anything, punches Colin in the stomach. Then the conversation continues as if nothing happened. But you get the feeling that the novel might not have a happy ending. Caroline is Robert's wife. She's shy and tense. One gets the impression that she's under the complete control of Robert. You could even say that she seems to be the prisoner of her husband and although she's shy, she yearns for a good conversation as if talking to strangers would comfort her. Mary and Colin are stereotype lovers although they can have rather academic discussions for several hours. These conversations and the digressions by the writer are sometimes long-winded with the result that you become impatient. You want to know how the story unfolds. Published for the first time in 1981, 'The Comfort of Strangers' is not one of his best achievements ('Atonement', 'Amsterdam'). But you should read this short novel especially when you're a fan of Ian McEwan. I like this novel because you can taste the evil and you can smell the madness albeit for short moments.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I feel weird saying that "I liked" this book because it was so disturbing. However, the writing was mesmerizing. His words pulled me in and I felt like that fly on the wall. I recommend this book only to those who are not depressed and/or have an anxiety disorder.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this because I loved Atonement, but I found it very disturbing, It is actually about people who are very sick, and in the end I wished I hadn't read it. Even though it was well-written, I didn't really understand the point of the book. It was too dark for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this one up because I have enjoyed this author's other works tremendously. Here he veers off into wierd territory. This story is about people who are sick, cruel, violent, etc. I could not finish this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A quiet book that surprises with an end without comfort at all!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A book that invokes much thought. Disturbingly acurate in it's descriptions of the characters. While it is confusing at times, the confusion lends to the power of the book. The charecters themselfs are confused, so the reader is actually brought more fully into the world of the book. The confusion is what makes the end so rivating. A good read, but don't let the length fool you, it will cause many hours of thought once you are finished.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Always like McEwan and before this I have other of his novels but I must say that he in early years he always had this strange way of creeping one out. So the plot of this story starts with Maria and Colin who are away for holiday.they dive through the city, discussing in feminism and recapitulating who they meet. They are lovers without other thing than be loving each other and finding places to eat in the afternoons. Them they meet this man and his wife and all the sane in this story goes away. Now they must found the who to escape from this crazy couple that want to teach them a lesson that they'll never forget.-Would you do anything for her? Yes or No. -What do you want!? _ugh thats not a very good answer is't?- know would you do anything for her? - Yes...