The Comfort of Strangers

( 11 )

Overview

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.
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The Comfort of Strangers

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Overview

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.
Read More Show Less

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

"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

"His writing is exact, tender, funny, voluptuous, disturbing."—The Times

"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

“Haunting and compelling.” –The Times

“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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679749844
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1994
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 540,864
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian McEwan has written two short story collections and eight novels. He won the 1998 Booker Prize for his first novel Amsterdam. He lives in England.

Biography

One of the most distinguished novelists of his generation, Ian McEwan was born in England and spent much of his childhood traveling with his father, an army officer stationed in the Far East, Germany, and North Africa. He graduated from Sussex University in 1970 with a degree in English Literature and received his MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.

McEwan burst upon the literary scene in the mid-1970s with two short story collections that highlighted with equal clarity his early predilection for disturbing, somewhat shocking subject matter and his dazzling prose style. Similarly, his 1978 debut novel, The Cement Garden, attracted as much attention for its unsettling storyline as for its stylistic brilliance. But even though his early work was saturated with deviant sex, violence, and death (so much so that he earned the nickname "Ian MacAbre"), he was never dismissed as a mere purveyor of cheap thrills. In fact, two of his most provocative works (The Comfort of Strangers and Enduring Love) were shortlisted for major U.K. awards.

As he has matured, McEwan has moved away from disquieting themes like incest, sadism, and psychotic obsession to explore more introspective human dramas. In an interview with The New Republic he described his literary evolution in this way:

"One passes the usual milestones in life: You have children, you find that whether you like it or not, you have a huge investment in the human project somehow succeeding. You become maybe a little more tolerant as you get older. Pessimism begins to feel something like a badge that you perhaps do not wear so easily. There is something delicious and reckless about the pessimism of being 21. And when you get older you feel maybe a little more delicate and hope that things will flourish. You don't want to take a stick to it."
Among many literary honors, McEwan has been awarded the Somerset Maugham Award for First Love, Last Rites (1976) and the Whitbread Prize for The Child in Time (1987). Nominated three times for the Booker Prize, he finally won in 1998 for Amsterdam. He has also received the WH Smith Literary Award and National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award for Atonement (2001) and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Saturday (2005).

Good To Know

While developing the Harry Perowne, the neurosurgeon in Saturday, McEwan actually spent a year observing a neurosurgeon at work, which included time spent in the operating theater.

Although he is known principally for his novels, McEwan has also brought his vision to the screen as writer of the films The Ploughman's Lunch (1983) and Soursweet (1988).

Hollywood loves McEwan. Film adaptions of his novels include The Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, The Innocent, Enduring Love, and Atonement.

McEwan is no stranger to controversy. In 1999, his first wife kidnapped their 13-year-old son.The child was returned and McEwan awarded sole custody. His ex-wife was fined for "defamation" of McEwan's name.

In 2002, Ian McEwan discovered that he had a brother born from an affair between McEwan's parents that occurred before their marriage and given up for adoption during WWII. Since their relationship has come to light, McEwan and his brother have met frequently and forged a friendship.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Ian Russell McEwan
    2. Hometown:
      Oxford, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 21, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Aldershot, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not as good as the reviews make it sound.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Death in Venice.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2010

    Terrifying but really well-written!

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Ian McEwan ever twisted way of writing.

    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...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    Well-written but very disturbing

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2004

    Disturbing

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2001

    No Comfort

    A quiet book that surprises with an end without comfort at all!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2001

    A thought provoking read on the nature of gender these days

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews

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