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Foreign Affairs

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  4,458 ratings  ·  285 reviews

Virginia Miner, a fifty-something, unmarried tenured professor, is in London to work on her new book about children’s folk rhymes. Despite carrying a U.S. passport, Vinnie feels essentially English and rather looks down on her fellow Americans. But in spite of that, she is drawn into a mortifying and oddly satisfying affair with an Oklahoman to
Paperback, 292 pages
Published November 14th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1984)
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Pulitzer Winners: Fiction & Novels
58th out of 87 books — 908 voters
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Pulitzer Prize Winners-Fiction
42nd out of 68 books — 77 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”In this culture, where energy and egotism are rewarded in the young and good-looking, plain aging women are supposed to be self-effacing, uncomplaining--to take up as little space and breathe as little air as possible.”

 photo Cupid_as_Link_Boy_by_Joshua_Reynolds_zps355b73b9.jpg
Cupid as Link Boy by Joshua Reynolds

Vinnie Miner is 54 years old. She has never been what has been deemed attractive. She went through all the obligatory attempts to improve her appearance as she marched through her twenties, thirties, and forties. None of them worked. ”Indeed i
I loved this book, although there was a bitterness to it that stayed after the fun was over. Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie is the story of two American academics visiting England for research, and not just of the literary kind. Vinnie Miner is, by her own description, a plain, unmarried professor of children's rhymes in her mid-fifties who considers herself more English than American. Fred Turner is a young adjunct professor, also American, in England to do research on 18th century playwright, ...more
Kate Quinn
As the heroine of "Foreign Affairs" complains, there is no grand romance in our culture for the middle-aged, only for the young and beautiful. This book is a delightful counter to that truism, the story of what happens to an unmarried and acerbic professor of English literature when grand passion strikes her at fifty-five. The book follows two threads - Fred, a young academic, and Vinnie, the spinster professor, both of whom have come to London in search of scholarly research. Instead, separatel ...more
B the BookAddict

Charming, perceptive and told with discreet humour, Foreign Affairs is the Pulitzer Prize winning novel about two American academics on six months study leave in Britain. Vinnie (Virginia) is a single 54yo professor from Corinth, an admitted Anglophile in Britain to collect notes on nursery folklore and looking forward to seeing her academic and theatrical British friends. Fred is a very handsome 28yo lecturer from Vinnie's department and in Britain to write a book on the eighteenth century poet
How this won a Pulitzer is beyond me. Just a Romance novel with some cynicism thrown in.
David Newman
This delightful little novel is lighter fare than the typical Pulitzer winner. Don’t look for a deep exploration of universal truth or a treatise on the meaning of life. That is not to say that this is mere fluff. Lurie has plenty to say about both the dark and more noble faces of Human nature. Her insights though, served with a generous dose of restrained humor, are as delectable as a maple sugar candy melting on your tongue. While an undercurrent of humor is sustained throughout the work, this ...more
Connie Mayo
The Pulitzer is a funny thing. This book made me look up what other books had won the prize, because the feeling of Foreign Affairs is mostly sort of a light romp, and my vague feeling about the Pulitzer was that it was generally for a heavier type of book. But really there is a range - everything from The Road in 2007 (could it GET any heavier?) to the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay in 2001. But still, it seems an odd choice somehow.

That being said, Foreign Affairs has some exceptional
Vinnie, one of the two main characters whose stories are the focus of this book, is a middle aged academic, not very attractive by her own description. She's a little cranky. Yet I began to like her when she started a relationship with a goodhearted man with whom she has little in common. Her young colleague Fred, whose story intertwines Vinnie's, has no money, no spouse (they split before he went to London without her), and no hope. He meets an actress who introduces him to new people and a mor ...more
This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1984. While there is nothing particularly profound about it, it is a very readable, well-paced addition to the 'academics abroad' genre. The story is reminiscent of David Lodge’s excellent “Changing Places”. However, where Lodge’s two academics are English and American transplants, respectively, Lurie follows the progress of two American academics, each on a 6-month leave in London.

One of the pleasures of this particular genre is the author’s free
Glenn Sumi
Two American university colleagues doing research in London get involved in very different affairs in Alison Lurie's charming, impeccably written comedy of manners.

A tad lightweight for a Pulitzer Prize-winner (it took the prize in 1985), the highly readable novel offers up wise truths about etiquette, aging and the mysteries of love.

There are some hilarious sections, especially involving a complaining couple named the Vogelers and their demanding baby. And the London setting is evocative (I tim
I'm discovering all sorts of writers I'd never otherwise discover by scouring the used bookstores in NYC, usually to so-so results. But Alison Lurie is a great find, a tremendously entertaining and captivating writer whose novel about two American academics in London had me in thrall all day today. Lurie won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for this book, with good reason, drawing comparisons to Henry James and Edith Wharton and Jane Austen - all very good company. I'm going trolling for more of her s ...more
This book could have been a snoozer. It begins with a self-pitying professor in her 50s traveling to England to do research. Not really a great "hook." But Lurie awards the patient. When she gets going, she really gets going. The premise of this book may sound overdone or stale. But there is nothing stale, boring, or trite about Foreign Affairs.

Lurie doesn't only just delve into the lives of two ordinary academics traveling to London-- stereotypes whose destination is banal, unexotic. They are
Lorin Cary
This is a delightful book, filled with rich characters and good writing. Vinnie and Frank are both professors on leave in London. Vinnie, a folklorist who collects children's rhymes in playgrounds, has a marvelously active imaginary life. Fido, who represents her self-pity, follows her about, most of the time. Vinnie loves London and over the years had built up quite a number of friends and acquaintances. Frank, a junior professor researching an 18th century writer, is recently separated from hi ...more
A very literate book about an English professor from Corinth University (a rearrangement of Cornell University) who goes to England and wishes she was a Brit. Lots of intrigue with American and British love affairs. I liked the book.
A very literate page-turner delight... sort of like a classic comedy of manners updated slightly for our times. Wharton-esque, even. A lot of fun.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 1984? Quite amazing! The first third of the book seemed very awkward to me, but I persisted because it was a book club selection. I was somewhat rewarded as the last half was quite witty, language was fun, social/cultural stereotypes were tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top simultaneously, etc. etc.

The story line is described well by others so I won't summarize here. It reminds me of some of the older, classic stories with pretentious upper crust people
I'm glad I never tried to become an English professor.
I'm astounded that this book won the Pulitzer Prize. I can only think that the prize was given more for the author's body of work rather than this particular novel.

I don't understand why, but I've been stuck with a rash of books where the characters are completely unlikeable, and this one is no different. The story revolves around two American Professors who go to London for research for just less than a year. The story follows them through their friendships and affairs and absolute lack of any
This is an entertaining read. Not bad, but definitely DEFINITELY not what you would expect to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It is perhaps one step above a typical romance novel. The characters are ok. The premise is ok. The plot and pacing are ok. But that's it--ok.

The better choice would be Berger's The Feud which was a finalist the year before (1984). Now there's a book with something to say!
*Foreign Affairs opens with Vinnie Miner, an established academic in her mid-fifties and ‘the sort of person that no one ever notices’ (p. 5) boarding a plane for London. Not a very prepossessing beginning, one might think, but Vinnie is followed by an invisible dog, and that accessory alone means one has to read more.

The novel is the tale of two visiting American scholars from the same English department of an Ivy League college. Each is on sabbatical in London for several months. Vinnie, an e
Foreign Affairs--oh, what a wonderful discovery! This is my first book by Alison Lurie, and it won the 1984 National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1985.

First Line: On a cold blowy February day a woman is boarding the ten A.M. flight to London, followed by an invisible dog.

I loved this book. It is witty and serious, a light sauce over a rich dessert full of complex flavors.

I loved the characters and their gradual enlightenment: Fred, the handsome young professor, recently se
3.5 stars. This book felt a little incongruous to me. I could easily have believed it was written in/about the turn of the century by a british author. there is a sharp formality to the writing.yet, in fact, it was written in 1984 and takes place in the current day with fairly frequent references to a modern world (the current president, punk rock...) the characters could all easily be transferred to Downton Abbey,with which i am currently obsessed. although the sexual references are certainly m ...more
Christian Engler
Alison Lurie's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a work that explores love and all its complexities through two polar opposite academics who teach at the same ivy league school: the factitious Corinth University.

One academic is the aging spinster professor, Virginia Miner, a published scholar who also happens to be a respected expert in the study of children's literature, with a particular emphasis on nursery and playground rhymes. An Anglophile at heart, she feels more at home in England than in
Perception. Reality. Or is our perception our reality? Before reading this novel, the only thing I knew about it was it won the Pulitzer Prize. I can understand why. I've probably become a lazy reader but this really struck me with its layers of "story." And I so took the main character, Vinnie Miner, to heart! Her perception/reality mindset will be topic of conversation with friends. Very pleased that I happened upon this book.
This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. I've brought it home from the library before, never happening to read it. This time, I took the reviews seriously and went to work. It's not initially a page-turner.
The story and viewpoints of two, lonely, American academics independently doing research sabbaticals in London would conventionally end up with them together. This one is wonderfully more rich and complicated.
This book sneaks up on you, stepping off with the juxtaposition of the life experi
Doug H
I liked it, but I didn't like it enough to write a more thoughtful review. Mostly I'm left wondering why it won the 1984 Pulitzer. Memorable mostly for Vinnie's daemon, Fido, who appears and disappears as her level of self pity waxes and wanes. The ending is touching and the author definitely has a talent for social satire. 3.5 stars.
Corie Ralston
I picked this one up because it happened to be sitting on my couch (my spouse had just read it). I'm not usually attracted to those literary books in which "not much happens" (plot summary: a lonely woman goes to England), but I was pleasantly surprised to be sucked into this one almost immediately. It's one of those books where the reader ends up knowing the characters better than the characters know themselves. The author is quite deft with showing character thoughts which don't quite match ch ...more
Kate Pierson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Milner
I know this book won the Pulitzer Prize---but why is beyond me. The narrative sequences are well written, but the characters! I just don't care about them at all. Vinnie is so needy and whiny---always just a breath away from her next pity party. And Fred! What a schmuck! Chuck turns out to be a more sympathetic character than he is early on. I am about 2/3 of the way through with this book, and at this point I am just scanning to see if there's any reason to actually read what's left. Why did I ...more
Newport Librarians
I'm stuck between 2 and 3 stars. I didn't like it, I didn't hate it. It's definitely not the type of book that I would pick up myself (I read it for a book group), and I'm a little confused how it won a Pulitzer Prize. Maybe I'm just not a sophisticated reader enough.

The big hubbub about this book is that it portrays a 50 year old average woman in her sexual prime and as a sexual being. It's a romance novel that goes overseas to London, where the prime story takes place. Vinnie is a professor wo
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2015 Reading Chal...: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie 2 18 Jan 09, 2015 06:18AM  
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Alison Lurie (b. 1926) is a Pulitzer Prize–winning author of fiction and nonfiction. Born in Chicago and raised in White Plains, New York, she joined the English department at Cornell University in 1970, where she taught courses on children’s literature, among others. Her first novel, Love and Friendship (1962), is a story of romance and deception among the faculty of a snowbound New England colle ...more
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