Book Review: The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan


Title: The Comfort of Strangers
Author: Ian McEwan
Published: 2002
Publisher: Chivers Press and Thorndike Press
Number of Pages: 153

Set in Venice, two unsuspecting tourists--Colin and Mary-- are vulnerable prey for those those who know their way around. When searching for a restaurant, the couple encounter a polite man called Robert, who offers help, and they enjoy a night of story telling and drinking. Yet somehow they will meet him again, and become drawn into a fantasy of violence and obsession.

You can read the first and last lines of this book at firstandlastlines blog (in English).

I'm not a fan of way-too-detailed descriptions, and this book has a lot of that. I was annoyed for a while, I'll admit, but then it all made sense. A story of a couple's kinda-pointless vacation melts into a psychotic turn of events... It's the story of Mary and Colin, who are vacationing in Venice, Italy. Although it's never mentioned (or I missed it), you can tell they've been together for a while. There's a familiarity between them, but it also feels like they're moving apart. And then, one night, they meet a stranger, have a couple of drinks, and afterwards all hell brakes loose.

The reviews I've read before reading the book were all over the place. Some thought the ending was way too predictable, and some thought it was a WHOA! ending. I fall into the second category. You do see it coming, but I found myself thinking "No; he won't! He can't," but he DOES. So, yeah. The ending did blow me away.

The only other Ian McEwan book I've read so far is Atonement. Judging by that and The Comfort of Strangers, I can say I love how he makes you nervous while you read. He does hint that something bad's going to happen, and you start writing scenarios in your head. But in the end when it does happen, you can't believe he went ahead and did it.

Apparently, this tiny book is also made into a movie under the same name. I was looking for it, but now I'm thinking I won't bother. I imagine it to be one of those typical movies where nothing much happens, even though I know the ending is great. So, I'll be skipping that, but if any of you are interested, here's the IMDB link to the movie.

P.S. Sorry about the bad quality of the book cover I used; I'm very anal about displaying the exact edition I've myself read. Oh, well!

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