Length: 291 pages
About: American love affairs in London
Style: 3rd person
Where: London, England
Virginia Miner, a fifty-something, unmarried tenured professor, is in London to work on her new book about children’s folk rhymes. Despite carrying a U.S. passport, Vinnie feels essentially
English and rather looks down on her fellow Americans. But in spite of that, she is drawn into a mortifying and oddly satisfying affair with an Oklahoman tourist who dresses more Bronco Billy than
Beau Brummel. Also in London is Vinnie’s colleague Fred Turner, a handsome, flat broke, newly separated, and thoroughly miserable young man trying to focus on his own research. Instead, he is
distracted by a beautiful and unpredictable English actress and the world she belongs to. Both American, both abroad, and both achingly lonely, Vinnie and Fred play out their confused
alienation and dizzying romantic liaisons in Alison Lurie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
As has sometimes been remarked, almost any woman can find a man to sleep with if she sets her standards low enough. But what must be lowered are not necessarily standards of character,
intelligence, sexual energy, good looks, and wordly achievement. Rather, far more often, she must relax her requirements for commitment, constancy, and romantic passion; she must cease to hope for
declarations of love, admiring stares, witty telegrams, eloquent letters, birthday cards, valentines, candy, and flowers. No; plain women often have a sex life. What they lack, rather, is a love
Foreign Affairs is Miss Lurie’s inquiry into the romance of Europe, from a writer who knows that romance is the one thing we all need but can never trust. And rightly so; in an age of soft dreams,
we need her hard edge.
The Times, Malcolm Bradbury, January 19th 1985
Not so good:
The two skeins of plot are ingeniously interlaced with some well-calculated surprises. The author has, however, an irritating way with tenses.
The Times, Stuart Evans 31st January 1985
About the author
Born September 3, 1926 in Chicago but grew up in White Plains, New York. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1947. Lurie taught literature, folklore, and writing at Cornell University from
1968 to 2006, first as a lecturer, later being appointed to full professor in 1979. Lurie has three children and is married to the writer Edward Hower.