The Comfort of Strangers

The Comfort of Strangers

by Ian McEwan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679749844
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/1994
Series: Vintage International Series
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 394,208
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.35(d)

About 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.


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 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 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.
ariadna73 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
May 15: This is a story about an unmarried couple that goes somewhere for vacation. All the environment feels like they love each other, but something wrong is happening.June 8: Now the story is turning a little bit more interesting, but also a little bit more nasty. All those descriptions about a little boy suffering from his mean sisters, and the tortures he must face.. It'll be difficult to forget.June 26. I don't know why, but this book remembered me another one I read, written by Paul Bowles. The translation of that book's title is something like "hot land". I've never liked stories about people traveling to some exotic places, and having terrible adventures that lead them to death. This novel is exactly like that. I was terribly bored in the beginning, and upset in the end. This is a very famous writer, and maybe people would like his writing, but I don't.
rozmarins on LibraryThing 7 months ago
It`s Ian Mcewan`s second novel, written in 1981. Read this book in February as additional book to my TBR list. In one word - disgusting. It`s the first feeling after I closed this book. BUT! It doesn`t mean that I didn`t like Comfort of Strangers. There is something tempting in it. Maybe it`s slow and gentle atmosphere of Venice, maybe it`s that scary feeling (it`s too good to be true...) in the air almost till the end of the book, when Robert and his wife shows their real faces. (full review
hhhiryuu on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I have read a number of McEwan's books, starting with the more recent ones and working backward, and I have to say I would recommend one or several of the later ones over The Comfort of Strangers. McEwan's strength for me is always his ability to put you so deeply into the innermost thoughts of his characters that you are completely enraptured, plus his discerning observations about sex and relationships. All those elements are present in The Comfort of Strangers, plus a ominous, menacing feeling that permeates the short book. But his later books revisit many of the same themes, and explore them more adroitly and thoroughly: sexual dysfunction in On Chesil Beach, relationship dysfunction in The Child in Time, foreboding menace in Saturday. Also, the main characters in this work are well drawn, but often unquestioning of situations in a way I found unbelievable, which kept knocking me out of the immersion I usual enjoy so much with McEwan's books. However, in the end, it's a short, well-written read, and it will seriously creep you out, so I do recommend it.
scatterbrainbucket on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Who would of thought a book about incest and family death could be so steamy and romantic! yes this is better than the movie.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Colin and Mary are on an extended holiday in Venice. They spend long, lazy days idling in their hotel or wandering the streets, often getting lost. Late one evening, out in search of a restaurant, they meet a man named Robert who takes them to a nearby bar and, later, to his home. Robert is overly friendly and forward, but Colin and Mary are drawn to him in spite of their better judgement. Their time with Robert is inexplicably arousing, so much so that they spend the next few days sequestered in their hotel room. When they emerge they find themselves unconsciously drawn to Robert again. And things get really creepy and evil ... as if they weren't already.Ian McEwan has written an expertly crafted thriller; I was riveted from the first few pages. As McEwan drove relentlessly toward the story's almost inevitable conclusion, I was actually relieved that the book was only 125 pages -- the suspense and intensity would have been difficult for me had it been longer. I had picked this book up quite by accident, in need of a short read while waiting for library books. I was very pleasantly surprised by its quality & punch.
suesbooks on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This writing was amazing; one of few books that really is impossible to put down, even though some credibility had to be suspended. Very upsetting.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Colin and Mary are unmarried, unhappy lovers on vacation. Bored with each other and frustrated with their foreign holiday destination (probably Venice or Rome), they are constantly having to remind each other and themselves they are on holiday and are supposed to be relaxing and enjoying themselves. Their disdain for each other annoyed me at times. For the couple getting lost in the ancient, winding, narrow streets wasn't supposed to be a problem because they have nowhere specific to be. Colin and Mary go on like this until suddenly, the story changes gears after a native enters their bored bubble. That chance meeting changes the course of their lives forever. It is a psychological, violent, erotic second half to the book, full of sex and selfishness. From the moment, Robert, the charismatic stranger, comes into the picture nothing seems normal again.
Lman on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I have seen The Comfort of Strangers, fittingly, described as a `long short story¿ - yet, such a minimalist amount of words evoked a plethora of confused, mixed emotions within me; upon finishing I was left with quite a hollow feeling, along with a strange sense of incredulity.The story begins in a non-descript hotel room. In a seven-year relationship, defined by no permanent commitment, Mary and Colin are on holiday, and succumbing to a jaded sensitivity ¿ to the surroundings and to each other. Their lack-lustre routine is disrupted one night when, venturing out much later than usual, and becoming totally lost in baffling foreign enclaves, they are aided by a persistent local, Robert. This outwardly innocuous chance encounter, plus the subsequent interactions with Robert and later, his inscrutable wife, Caroline, trigger a profound reversal in Mary and Colin; completely renewing their immediate rapport, intimacy and love, while leading, inevitably, to a devastating conclusion. And from the very beginning Ian McEwan, elegantly and masterfully, weaves into the narrative an oppressive, foreboding mood, with the utter anonymity of it all. The sounds and senses of the city, it could be any city by the sea, for the reader is never allowed full recognition of the exact identity and must continually guess. Mary and Colin, their background is a mystery, they could be any couple, but remain an enigma despite many intimate revelations. The somewhat irritating inability of the pair to communicate with the locals, despite obvious intelligence and lengthy passages of personal conversations; the purposeful omission of other individuals, and the contrived isolation, from an underlying, intense desire by Mary and Colin to distance themselves from everyone; all of this artfully insinuates an ominous, sinister atmosphere into the story. And this obscurity, this ambiguity, the necessity for the reader to constantly speculate, complements cleverly with the double entendre in the title of this tale.I have to agree absolutely with the blurb on my copy: this is ¿an exquisite miniature Gothic¿; a peculiar but irresistible read. As I sat, numb, horrified and, as mentioned, slightly leery, after reading the last page I heard a news bulletin on my radio detailing a recent unpleasant international incident, and had to smile to myself¿ for, I realised, though this story in many ways beggars belief, the truth is often much stranger than any work of fiction; even one, especially one, such as this.
LynleyS on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Eech, what a nasty little book. I read it in a single sitting - as you'd have to do, probably - as you'd watch a movie. I was drawn in from the beginning by the masterful language and such accurately portrayed relationship between Mary and Colin.The final chapter was really quite hard to read. And the final page... I felt I'd just watched a horror/thriller. I'm not keen to go back there, but I'll certainly be happy to read more of his work.
marek2009 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I read this after The Daydreamer, as I realised I haven't read any McEwan in a while. the concept behind this is very interesting, but its his 2nd novel, & McEwan is primarily a stlyist, which took time to mature. This cheese is not fedit enough.
jhedlund on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really struggled with the rating on this book. On the one hand, I didn't like the story at all. On the other, the author didn't intend for readers to like the story and therefore was very effective. The writing is pure brilliance, without a doubt. However, I could have lived without the images that will now haunt the rest of my days for having read this book. If I were rating the book on enjoyment alone, the rating would be at least one star fewer. In the end, McEwan's mastery of the craft of writing won out for me, and I had to give it four stars. This is quite a compliment of McEwan's artistry, since writing seldom trumps enjoyment in my rating and reviewing.
rcorfield on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I think some of the other reviews here have been a little harsh on this book. One of Ian McEwan's strengths is his descriptive powers and this book contains powerful evocations of mood, atmosphere and place; in this case Venice. He builds and releases tension well but you get a strong feeling of foreboding throughout the book.Sometimes McEwan has a problem with the endings of his books (see Amsterdam), but I didn't think that was the case here. A slim volume and a quick read, but not one I'll forget in a hurry.
booksbooks11 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I don't think I can really rate this a 5 for at least another year. In a year will this novel still be creeping around under my skin, invading my thoughts and have me wondering why? I don't know for sure but I suspect it will. If you want to find the essence of suspense it's somewhere hidden in this very short but intense book.
edwinbcn on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I have read nearly all of Ian McEwan's novels, this one being an early, short one. Reading this elegant, somewhat stilted novel, I wondered how much later readers would understand of the atmosphere. In my view, the reader should have a good grasp of the 1970s to understand what is going on, and why this story seems plausible. The novel itself provides very little description.The comfort of strangers is a fine novel, full of languid descriptions of Venice. A married couple, somewhat wearied in their relationship, make acquaintance with a handsome, apparently very sympathetic man. At the end of the novel, the story works out in a gruesome twist, typical of McEwan's novels.This novel would be a very good novel to start reading Ian McEwan, or, as in my case savour the taste of his early works. Very nice.
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.