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Ian McEwan: The Comfort of Strangers

In this, his second novel, McEwan is starting to move away from his pimple-squeezing past into the more impressionistic painting of his later period. Another accusation of plagiarism for McEwan, as this novel was compared to Sheltering Sky, though I found more resemblance to the film Don’t Look Now. Colin and Mary are English tourists in an unnamed European city, clearly Venice. They wander nonchalantly around Venice – the descriptions of Venice, not the tourist-type but a more sensual view, are excellent. Nothing much happens to them till they meet up with a garrulous Englishman called Robert. From then on, strange things happen as their lives are taken control of. They wake up naked in a strange room and are entertained by Robert in his apartment. Their lives, previously meaningless and bland, now seem to have something to focus on with the presence of Robert. They continue their meandering around Venice, till Robert again takes them in hand. This time, it is not so much fun. The book was made into an interesting film.

Publishing history

First published 1981 by Jonathan Cape