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.