Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie
Random House, 280 pages
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.