The perfect thing

I began Alison Lurie’s novel Foreign Affairs last night and continued reading it for a while this afternoon, and I’m finding it to be the perfect thing to read right now. It’s a novel that I feel I can read for hours on end; although I really loved The Voyage Out, I didn’t feel I could read it for hours on end (maybe one or two, but not longer). I’m in need of something absorbing — something serious, but just a little on the lighter side. Lurie is perfect.

It’s got a lot of things I like — it’s about characters and relationships and emotions and conversations; it’s also about academic-type people, which, although I sometimes feel this is a masochistic tendency, I like reading about. (Don’t I spend enough time among academics as it is?) It’s about Americans in London, so I can read and fantasize about being there myself.

The story is about two English professors from Corinth University, which, since it’s prestigious and in upstate New York, I’m presuming is something like Cornell; plus there’s the fact that Lurie has taught at Cornell for many years. Both professors are conducting research in London. One of them is a woman in her 50s, independent and eccentric; the other is in his late 20s, recently separated from his wife, and very unhappy. So far they have met in London a few times and don’t like each other particularly.

One thing I’ve noticed — a couple of times Lurie refers directly to her text; for example, she mentions the length of a particular paragraph, or in Chapter 3 she makes a reference to Chapter 1. She’s being playful, I suppose, pointing out to readers that it’s a novel they’ve got in their hands, not trying to be perfectly realistic and to make readers forget that it’s a book they are reading. And the tone of the novel is light; it seems like she had fun writing it, and I’m having fun reading it.


Filed under Books, Fiction

11 responses to “The perfect thing

  1. Somewhere on my shelves is this novel. If it resurfaces, I will fish it out.


  2. I’ve not read Lurie before but I have heard good things about her. I’ll be quite interested in you final assessment. You may be what inspires me to read her. No pressure or anything though 🙂


  3. I adored this novel. In fact, I’ve loved every Alison Lurie novel I’ve ever read (and I do believe I’ve read them all now)!


  4. hepzibah

    I have never heard of this paticular author, but yes it sounds interesting, and I feel like for the summer I need to relax and do light reading all the time, and I’m not sure why, I need something that I can read without really thinking too much…


  5. hmm, I don’t know how I’d feel about the directions to parts of the text – I feel it would take me “out” of the story and it would feel like an intrusion. Otherwise I’m interested in Lurie!


  6. I’ve only read only Lurie book and it was short stories. Thought it was wonderful but just haven’t gotten around to reading more by her. I know I have one or two of her books on my shelves. Must dig them out soon! 🙂


  7. Alison Lurie is someone people have been recommending to me for years, but I have yet to read her. Right now, though, I’ve found my own Perfect Thing at the airport bookstore, The Time Traveler’s Wife (I’m pretty sure I’m the very last person in the world to read it). Oh, have I been wishing I hadn’t been so busy over the past few days and could just sit down with it for hours!


  8. I have never read Lurie, but I have heard good things about her. I love the sort of book that you can read and feel totally absorbed in! I agree–some books are very good, but are better taken in smaller doses. I will have to keep an eye out for her books.


  9. LK — I think you would enjoy it! Stefanie — no pressure at all! I’ll make sure to post my final thoughts — I’ve read even more now and so far, so good. Litlove — I can see why you adore this novel! I’m certain I will seek out more Lurie novels in the future; she’s good enough to return to again and again. Hepzibah — the summer is a good time for light reading! Especially when you’ve been working hard all school year, which I know you have been. Courtney, I can see what you mean, and I’ve felt irritated at that kind of intrusion before, although here it seems to fit with her playful tone. Iliana — I’m glad you liked her short stories; perhaps I should seek them out one of these days. Emily, I loved the Time Traveler’s Wife! I’m curious to hear what you think … Danielle, I think you’d like Lurie a lot.


  10. I really like this book (maybe I should reread it)–but it
    was disappointing to me that I didn’t like her other books
    nearly so well.
    Glad to have your comments on the Voyage Out–I reread
    this last summer in a slow and note-taking way–very


  11. Lucette — how disappointing that her other books didn’t match up for you!


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