Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Comfort of Strangers” as Want to Read:
The Comfort of Strangers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Comfort of Strangers

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  8,522 ratings  ·  746 reviews
Colin and Mary are lovers on holiday in Italy, their relationship becoming increasingly problematic as they become increasingly alienated from one and other. They move from place to place in this foreign land but seemingly without aim or purpose and more, seemingly bored and without attachment.

Then they meet a man named Robert and his wife, Caroline, who is crippled. Colin
ebook, 107 pages
Published February 11th 2011 by RosettaBooks (first published 1981)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Comfort of Strangers, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Comfort of Strangers

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Paul Bryant
This was exactly the novel I didn’t want to read, but at least it’s official now – NO MORE IAN MCEWAN BOOKS FOR ME, EVER. I would like to tell you how stupid this novel is, but Maciek beat me to it – see his great review here

So let me tell you about the boring sentences you have to accept into your life if you read this book. Here’s one:

Now, in the late afternoon, although the sun was still high, the eastern sky had lost its vivid purple and, fading by deg
This was the first novel by Ian McEwan that I've read ages ago. I got a copy from a supermarket sale and read it in a day, wondering all the time how someone could write down so many nasty things and get away with it. Cut me some slack, I was 10.

So, as I sat to rediscover this classic, I hoped to feel at least a fraction of the weird pleasure this novel brought me back then. The thing is short - 120 pages long - and you can easily breeze through it in two hours.

I have to say that this might be M
Sep 05, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone about to go on holiday
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
We're all going on a (pause) summer holiday. No more working for a week or two....

Or permanently because we make poor choices about accepting cordial invites from complete strangers. What is it about a glass of two of Prosecco on a warm summers afternoon that makes people so trusting of random strangers when they're on holiday? Perhaps we find some of our holiday locations so idealistic and romantic that it's like a fairy tale and so we'll merrily gad about, without a care in the world, believin
Creepy and spare, this will not be among my favorite of McEwan's remarkable oeuvre. And yet. The Comfort of Strangers was published nearly thirty-five years ago and there is a timelessness about its tone and the shadowy, shuddery story. Perhaps because its setting-Venice (unnamed, but sketched down to the detail of aroma of decay and filtered sunlight)-has not changed. McEwan carefully withheld markers of politics and pop culture, as if somehow knowing the story's potential to live past its Last ...more
Nov 24, 2008 Mike rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eh....
Shelves: 50-books-2008
There are certain authors who I feel I should (eventually) read simply by dint of their, apparent, relevance to people. It seems like one should at least make a small effort to not curmudgeonly lie exclusively in the 1860-1960 century, and occasionally see what all the hub-bub is about. McEwan, DeLillo, and Eggers are all such authors who I have specifically avoided--the ones you see people walking around reading and wonder why they aren't reading Hamsun or Beckett, Mishima or Boll, Machado de A ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Un romanzo enigmatico e inquietante, che parte lento e sonnolento, nel descrivere la relazione tra Colin e Mary, una coppia che non si parla più eppure ciascuno conosce l’altro almeno come sé stesso, per la lunga e abitudinaria convivenza, in vacanza in una città innominata, dominata dall’acqua –un’acqua stagnante ed immobile come le esistenze dei due protagonisti-. Il racconto prosegue in un’atmosfera onirica, come nel mondo ovattato del sogno fatto di silenzi e di gesti lenti e sguardi muti.
Review of 'The Comfort of Strangers' by Ian McEwan.
Recommended for: Travel phobiacs,Armchair travellers,McEwan fans

Travel advisory by Ian McEwan:

Do not travel.
Do not travel to Venice(& Amsterdam as well).
Do not go to Venice in summer as the soporific heat dulls the senses & makes you behave like an airhead.
Must have heavy lunch so in case you miss your dinner,you won't go looking for a hotdog stall outside a bar through dark & deserted alleyways.
Better take your children along so you
Well thank the Lord for bulk buying, that's all I can say. A few weeks ago I bought three Ian McEwan volumes. Two books of his short stories and this very short novel or maybe it is a novella. Anyway whatever it is, it was wonderful. Having just finished 'First Love,Last Rites'(FLLR) and been nauseated by the whole sickness of the themes I was very wary of reading anything else by him but as i had bought the three books and as i have always lived by that creed of when you fall off a bike get rig ...more
As always, Ian McEwan tells this tale with remarkable descriptions, ensuring that the readers see everyone and everything in the novel the way he himself has pictured it. "The Comfort of Strangers", like "The Cement Garden", is a very quick read. However, it fails to captivate its audience. Pretty much nothing happens up until more than half of the book, which almost made me stop reading it out of complete boredom. His characters are lackluster and some parts of the story are pretty vague. McEwa ...more
I'm sorry, Ian McEwan, but I don't believe you.

There is nothing about this book that convinces me that any of these people could exist in the real world. I cannot work out how Mary and Colin could be encountered anywhere but in a bad novel. I cannot work out why they - apparently boring, middle class nonentities - would take up with someone who is so obviously a criminal from the first moment that they meet him. I also cannot work out why they would agree to stay at his house and then, after he
It's a 'haunting but intriguingly written book' 4.5 stars.

The Comfort of Strangers is probably the first book by Ian McEwan, aka 'Ian Macabre', which I have actually finished reading and enjoyed. I never finish The Cement Garden, by the same author,therefore I'm pleasantly surprised to find The Comfort of Strangers so appealing.

The story is very simple: a pair of well-to-do, fine looking, highly educated couple went to an unnamed, tourist-crowded city (strongly hinted at as Venice), they hanged
What tended to happen, to Colin and Mary at least, was that subjects were not explored so much as defensively reiterated, or forced into elaborate irrelevancies, and suffused with irritability.

This slim weapon is a foggy retreat into the nuptual neuroses during the holiday abroad. All baggage isn't declared at Customs. The soul is a mule through Passport Control. Regret and doubt are the rogue's liquidity, the same for the spouse. Lifting Blanche's best line will ultimately avail with kinky prop
This is a pretty average Ian McEwan novel for the most part. His magnificent use of the English language is evident, as always; the setting is vague but also familiar, the tone of the entire novel is mysterious, eerie, sinister, with a little noir. It is quite easy to be drawn into the stories apprehensive and dark mood. It is also almost an alternate universe, in which I found myself easily suspending my disbelief in order to accept Mary and Colin 's illogical decisions. Somehow, it seemed that ...more
In base a cosa si danno le stellette ?I criteri cambiano nel tempo con ripensamenti anche radicali. Ed il fattore - tempo ha un'incidenza determinante.

Per questo libro (del 1981) il fattore - tempo è impietoso: è datato ed invecchiatissimo.

I due protagonisti sono due "giovani adulti" radical - chic: si capisce che fanno gli artisti, lei è attrice in un "collettivo teatrale femminile" ed ha un paio di uscite tipicamente vetero - femministe, ma non è che abbiano granché da fare. Tuttavia (all'epoc
Stephanie Sun
"'I woke up and realized something.. If I'd realized it in the daytime I wouldn't have been so frightened by it.'"

Halfway through this book, I spoiled the ending for myself and then almost gave up on it. It was only because I realized that the "strangers" of the title, Robert and Caroline, reminded me of the baroque doms and subs of The Bloody Chamber, and that that book had been published two years before this one and was certainly a waking hours influence on McEwan that I eventually continued.
This little book was not a favorite McEwan book for me. Although it had lyrical strengths, it was psychologically cold. I could not help but wonder where the story was going. I will not summarize the plot here, merely comment on the contents.

Years ago, my husband and I went to Israel. Our knowledge of the language was meager, mostly the usual pleasantries and words of prayer. We were not part of a tour group, preferring to make our way around the country by public transportation and of course, o
This is by far McEwan’s darkest book and he sets the mood perfectly. Mary and Colin are on holiday, experiencing some unexplained dissatisfaction with each other until a seemingly random encounter with Robert. Robert introduces the couple to his wife Caroline, and right away it is obvious something more sinister is at play. McEwan has written about the impact of strangers once in “Enduring Love,” but Robert and Caroline are more calculating than the obsessive Jed. The conclusion is more shocking ...more
Yve Chairez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
McEwan si rivela bravissimo a descrivere, raccontare, indagare l'animo umano. Come già avvenuto in "Chesil beach", in cui ha analizzato le insicurezze di una coppia neosposata, anche qui affronta il non detto, la mancanza di dialogo, la difficoltà di comunicare di una coppia.
Una coppia come Colin e Mary, i protagonisti di questo breve libricino, che incedono a piccoli passi nella vita e nel loro rapporto che è scandito da una quotidianità fatta di rituali e procedure, di giorni uguali agli altr
I didn't quite like this. I couldn't find many redeeming features. Of course Ian McEwan’s writing is economical and beautifully crafted and in his unique way he can build this tension and take you with him but I couldn't bring myself to care for any of the characters. I couldn't identify with them. I felt that they were two dimensional. Yes, the story does take you along with that impending danger lurking in the background. But I wanted to find something satisfying about it.
Pavese'nin "Yolculuk bir yabanıllıktır. Sizi yabancılara güvenmeye, evinizde ve dostlarınızın yanındayken duyumsadığınız bütün o alışılmış huzurdan uzaklaşmaya zorlar. Sürekli olarak başınız döner. Temel şeyler dışında -yani hava, uyku, düşler, deniz ve gök dışında- hiçbir şey size ait değildir, her şey sonsuza ya da bizim sonsuz diye düşlediğimiz şeye yönelir." sözleriyle başlayan, yabancılıktan, aşktan, sokaklardan, ilişkilerden bahsederken şiddete, ölüme giden sürükleyici bir hikâye.
This is one of Ian McAbre’s Ewan’s earlier short novels, and a strange, menacing book it is too. Right from the start there is an air of ennui and lassitude around Mary and Colin as they thread their way through streets whose surroundings they can never quite recall, which adds to the sense of mystery and foreboding: every time they set out without a map they become lost. They have recently quarreled over something minor, but it remains as a barrier, preventing them from saying exactly what they ...more
Mind the Book
Litterär trängsel råder på caférna kring Markusplatsen. Där sitter sedan tidigare John och Laura från Du Mauriers 'Don't Look Now' vid sidan av det amerikanska paret med självmordspakten från Nessernovellan och nu riktar Ian McEwan kameralinsen mot Colin och Mary. Ute på Lido ligger Gustav von Aschenbach och spanar. Faktum är att de alla liknar varandra, vilsna i Venedig, fast alla är olyckliga på sitt sätt.

Såg filmversionen omedelbart efter läsningen och det hela blev en riktig bok&film-up
Big disappointment, since I loved some of McEwan's other books. Bizarre, disturbing, depressing but ultimately pointless.
Paul Martin
Disturbing stuff.

While reading this I found myself thinking that there is very little development in the work of Ian McEwan. It then hit me that the reason for that is obvious: I've been reading his work in reversed chronological order, so it would be unfair to expect something he wrote at the start of his career in 1981 to be an improvement of something he wrote in 2005.

If this had been a new release I would probably have given it two stars.
The prose is great, as always, but the plot and charac
Leah Polcar
Oh Ian, I feel as if I should like you, but we never seen to quite work out. At least I am comforted by many of the other reviews where it seems I am not alone in not really understanding why you are one of the great writers of our times. Yes, you do write quite nicely and given the amount of self-published garbage I have read, this is no small accomplishment. Yet I miss the element of story-telling in your work. I don't understand your characters and why they do what they do and I really don't ...more
Rosemary Ceravolo
Jan 09, 2009 Rosemary Ceravolo rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
What I learned from this book? Hardly anything, except
that McEwan has made a Post-Modernist industry among
today's writers of witless forays into obvious horror-style, exaggerative, exploitative set-ups without much in-depth
character analysis, which we literates really expect from
great writers.

However, "The Comfort of Strangers," is structured to entice
and carry through to the bitter end, mainly because it's a
short read, although not as adept as his "On Chesil Beach."

The main thrust of "The
A short book, or novella, deserves a short review. Here goes:

This is my fifth McEwen book, found it at a used store for four bucks, and thought it would be a good two day read. It was, and it wasn't. This is no Atonement, however, I found it more interesting than Amsterdam...

The pros:
*The ennui of the couple is masterfully set-up. On vacation, yet bored, and very British in their daily rituals, the reader knows that something, anything, out of the ordinary is going to upset their "holiday."

McEwan's prose is smoother than poetry. His reputation is well established and very well deserved. In THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS, he uses his excellent skills to provide an exquisite and painstaking picture of two people walking, slowly but inexorably, into their own destruction.

In this story, the travelling couple in a foreign land (Venice?) is so vivid that you feel you can feel the frustration of the heat, the sounds, the scents, the sensations they experience. As danger approaches in the most
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created The Lord of the Rings
  • A Disaffection
  • Eva Trout
  • The Road to Lichfield
  • The Nice and the Good
  • Praxis
  • The Dressmaker
  • Peripheral Vision
  • Other People
  • The Last Bridge
  • Breakfast on Pluto
  • The Restraint of Beasts
  • Staring At The Sun
  • An Artist of the Floating World
  • The Doctor's Wife
  • Mother's Milk (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #4)
  • In Custody
  • Europa
Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last
More about Ian McEwan...

Share This Book

“She sleepwalked from moment to moment, and whole months slipped by without memory, without bearing the faintest imprint of her conscious will. ” 16 likes
“...they knew each other as much as they knew themselves, and their intimacy, rather like too many suitcases, was a matter of perpetual concern; together they moved slowly, clumsily, effecting lugubrious compromises, attending to delicate shifts of mood, repairing breaches. As individuals they didn't easily take offense; but together they managed to offend each other in surprising, unexpected ways; then the offender - it had happened twice since their arrival - became irritated by the cloying susceptibilities of the other, and they would continue to explore the twisting alleyways and sudden squares in silence, and with each step the city would recede as they locked tighter into each other's presence.” 11 likes
More quotes…