Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Random House, 280 pages

ISBN 0821976312

On a crowded flight across the Atlantic, anglophile Vinnie Miner wishes desperately for a bit of peace.  Vinnie, a middle-aged professor at Corinth University, would prefer to spend the flight thinking about her sabbatical to work on a book about children’s folk rhymes in Britain, but instead, she is forced to make polite conversation with Chuck Mumpson, a loud, uncultured sanitary engineer from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Vinnie pulls out a book in a bid for self-preservation, and to give her seatmate something to do, she kindly passes him a copy of Little Lord Fauntleroy.  When the airplane lands, Vinnie assumes she will never see Chuck again, but Fauntleroy has inspired him to seek out his English ancestors, so he enlists Vinnie’s help.

On the London Underground, a strikingly handsome young professor, also from Corinth, is contemplating the ruins of his marriage.  Fred Turner’s wife, Roo, was supposed to join him on the British sabbatical, but after their last argument, he is here alone.  Although Fred was initially attracted to Roo’s rough-edged, organic creativity, her new artistic endeavours are too crude for his comfort level; he is now seeking a few months in a refined environment to study the works of an eighteenth-century poet.  When Fred arrives in Britain, he meets Rosemary Radley, a delicately beautiful actress who usually plays the part of the aristocrat.  Rosemary introduces Fred to a world of tinkling laughter and elegant manners, and Fred never wants to leave.

Living in a country with a different set of rules, Vinnie and Fred find that they are thinking differently about themselves, the world they live in, and the people they grow to love.  Foreign Affairs is a Pulitzer prizewinning story from a celebrated author, sure to be enjoyed by those who appreciate the sensibilities of Muriel Spark and Elinor Lipman.

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10 Responses to Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie

  1. Alex says:

    I first came across Lurie through her work on Children’s Literature, both of us teaching Under and Post Graduates in this area. I soon found I enjoyed her just as much as a novelist and this was definitely one of my favourites. I must check and see if it’s still on my shelves and if so put it aside for a re-read.

    • Naomi says:

      Like you, I’m so impressed at her talents as a novelist when she specializes in children’s literature. I loved this novel – it could have been fluffy, but she wrote it with such depth and feeling that it wasn’t at all.

  2. This sounds wonderful, Naomi!

  3. Lesley says:

    There was a time when I read everything Muriel Spark and Alison Lurie wrote… I remember those books fondly.

    • Naomi says:

      I haven’t read much of Lurie yet, but I’m a bit fan of Muriel Spark’s writing. I find Elinor Lipman to be similar, only funnier and slightly less biting.

  4. Touch2Touch says:

    This sounds like an excellent lead — thanks for the review, and for visiting my blog!

  5. Touch2Touch says:

    I LOVED this book. Thank you so much! I’m trying another one of hers right now.

    • Naomi says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! I really enjoy her writing, too. Another reader commented that she went through a period where she read a great deal of both Alison Lurie and Muriel Spark, and I can see how Spark would be a good match. You may want to give her a try when you finish reading through Lurie.

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