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Foreign Affairs Paperback – May, 1990

4.0 out of 5 stars 168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The seventh and latest work of fiction by Alison Lurie, who teaches English at Cornell University and has quietly but surely established herself as one of this country's most able and witty novelists... Wonderfully stimulating for its sheer performance as a novel." -- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt New York Times "I am convinced that Alison Lurie's fiction will long outlast that of many currently more fashionable names. There is no American writer I have read with more constant pleasure and sympathy over the years. Foreign Affairs earns the same shelf as Henry James and Edith Wharton" -- John Fowles Sunday Times "A brilliant novel - her best I think. The book is a triumph, and not simply of style...Foreign Affairs is witty, acerbic, and sometimes fiendishly clever" -- Paul Bailey Evening Standard "Warm, clever and funny" Times Literary Supplement --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Alison Lurie (b. 1926) is a Pulitzer Prize winning author of fiction and nonfiction. Born in Chicago and raised in White Plains, New York, she joined the English department at Cornell University in 1970, where she taught courses on children s literature, among others. Her first novel, "Love and Friendship"(1962), is a story of romance and deception among the faculty of a snowbound New England college. It won favorable reviews and established her as a keen observer of love in academia. It was followed by the well-received"The Nowhere City"(1966) and"The War Between the Tates"(1974). In 1984, she published"Foreign Affairs", her best-known novel, which traces the erotic entanglements of two American professors in England. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. In 1998, Lurie published"The Last Resort". In addition to her novels, Lurie s interest in children s literature led to three collections of folk tales and two critical studies of the genre. Lurie officially retired from Cornell in 1998, but continues to teach and write.In 2012, she was awarded a two-year term as the official author of the state of New York."The Language of Houses"(2014) is her most recent book.Lurie lives in Ithaca, New York, and is married to the writer Edward Hower. She has three grown sons and three grandchildren. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 291 pages
  • Publisher: Quill (HarperCollins) (May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380709902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380709908
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,710,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Characterization and social observation take center stage in Alison Lurie's Pulitzer Prize winning book (1985). It's witty and droll and rather literary, and in its own understated way a page turner. Vinnie Miner is an English professor in her 50's, divorced and not exceptionally pretty. In fact, she looks (and in public, acts) like an old school marm. She's spending a semester in London to research a book on children's lymericks. In a parallel story, Fred Turner is an exceptionally attractive, 29 year old English professor, newly separated from his wife, who is also spending the semester in England to research his own book. They are aquaintances and peers, and work for the same university in the states. Their stories cross paths throughout the book, adding to the juxtaposition of their two lives.
Vinnie and Fred are vastly different characters who share common human need: companionship, acceptance, love. Foreign Affairs is the story of the paths each of their lives takes while on this sojourn in England, how each reaches his own moment of truth. Along the way, we are greatly entertained by their independent observations of England and of English high society, of the inherent differences between American and English mannerisms and lifestyles, and of the pretenses we all put forth when interacting with the world. There are also some wonderful secondary characters, who occasionally upstage the two main characters, much to the reader's delight.
The novel moves along splendidly, until the very end, when, unfortunately, Lurie finds it necessary to throw in several plot twists which cater more to the dramatic, and play on coincidence and unfounded surprise. These are so utterly unnecessary that I became angry at Lurie for spoiling such a wonderfully engaging book. Still, despite a few weak moments near the end, this one gets four stars
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Format: Paperback
Alison Lurie's "Foreign Affairs" is quite the most witty, poignant and charming book I have read all year. Lurie had me in her spell right from the opening chapter where I was struck by her sureness of touch and intuitive understanding of the workings of the human heart. Her sense of humour is so honest and spot-on it's uncanny. She had me in stitches no sooner than Vinnie Miner boarded the plane and found to her dismay the unlikeliest of travelling companions seated next to her and determined to make conversation. Lurie's protagonists, Vinnie Miner and Fred Turner, are both living, breathing individuals everyone recognises. They aren't "types" but real people, not particularly distinguished or virtuous, with insecurities, but nevertheless people you feel compassion for. Vinnie and Fred are thrown together, sharing the same broad social milieu and developing romantic attachments with the unlikeliest of liasons. Of the two, Vinnie's story is by far the more convincing and successful. It is also heartwarming and touching. In contrast, Fred's liason is a little bland and one dimensional but saved by a dark twist at the end which I won't give away. "Foreign Affairs" has to be Lurie's masterpiece. It is a truly delightful and exceptional literary achievement by a novelist whose trademark is a graceful old school charm that's so rare to find these days. It richly deserves its Pulitzer Prize winning status and I would recommend it to anyone who reads to be moved and entertained.
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Format: Paperback
In alternating chapters devoted to each character, six months in the life of Virginia ("Vinnie") Miner, an unmarried Ivy League college professor for whom the sweet bird of youth has long flown away, are contrasted with the same period in the life of Fred Turner - young and handsome, and a junior faculty member of the same Ivy League college. Although they barely know each other, they are both members of the English department and are both on sabbatical in London at the same time doing research.
Their stories are studies in contrast and in similarities. Fred is lonely, having recently become estranged from his wife; Fred loathes England (at least, at first). Vinnie is beyond lonely - at 54, she has settled into a life of comforting routine, even if the routine involves frequent trips to her beloved England. Fred turns heads; Vinnie is "the sort of person no one ever notices."
They each find romance in England. Fred is upwardly mobile - he falls in love with a beautiful and aristocratic actress of some fame. Vinnie is shocked to find herself having a romance with a sanitary engineer from Tulsa, a man who rarely reads books and with whom she would barely have deigned to have talked had they not been thrown together.
Which of these two relationships goes on to become a life-love, and which ends in humiliating farce? It is the genius of this book that the answer, like life itself, remains unpredictable throughout the novel, right up to its surprising end. This novel was highly deserving of the Pulitzer Prize.
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Format: Paperback
Last night my local book club discussed "Foreign Affairs", by Alison Lurie. It won the Pulitzer, so I had fairly high expectations that weren't entirely met, but I am glad I read it. The story follows two American professors, Vinnie & Fred, on their extended and separate stays in London.

Vinnie, a lonely, rather plain 50-something professor who researches children's rhymes finds love and discovers her own humanity through a rather unlikely affair with a middle-class `cowboy' tourist from Oklahoma. Fred, a young, handsome professor who's recently separated from his wife learns the fickle shallowness of certain members of the British upper-crust. After falling in love with a wealthy British actress Fred discovers a beautiful and privileged side of London. But when that relationship goes south as well Fred realizes he prefers his flawed & honest wife rather than the beautiful, disingenuous -- and rather mad - actress.

Like its characters, "Foreign Affairs" has plenty of flaws. The spectral dog that represents Vinnie's self-pity is overused as are contrived connects (E.g. Fred's estranged wife's father is Vinnie's hated nemesis critic). Still, I can recommend the book. I enjoyed the examination of UK and US class systems as well the games people play with their hearts. The themes of relativity and expectation are woven throughout the book. It's a short and sometimes humorous read that's worth your time.
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