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Foreign Affairs

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  10,731 ratings  ·  813 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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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  10,731 ratings  ·  813 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”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. ”Indee
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
In my quest to read through the Pulitzer Prize winners, I was alerted to Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie, the 1985 winner. An academic who specializes in children's literature, Lurie's award winning novel is gleaned from her real life experiences. Featuring characters with strong, distinct personalities, Lurie writes of finding romance in the least likely of places while making distinctions between American and British society.

Virginia "Vinnie" Miner is a fifty four year old spinster professor
Michael Finocchiaro
I enjoyed this book as far as the story goes, but felt a little cheated in the end. Vinnie, the 54-year old, somewhat frumpy protagonist, does her best to stave off her emotions to the point of objectifying her self-pity as an invisible dog, Fido. She meets Chuck Mumpson, a big, clumsy tourist from Oklahoma, on her plane to London where she has a residency to work on a book of research into nursery rhymes for her upstate NY university in Corinth. Also in London for his work on John Gay, the Engl ...more
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really great portrayal of a middle aged academic and her sojourn in London. Also a young American colleague of hers in London for research at the same time.
I really enjoyed both their perceptions of London in the eighties and how tourists feel when visiting a city. Vinnie is an Anglophile and an intellectual snob and tries to resist the allures of a brash American tourist. Fred gets involved with a 'luvvie' actress..

Their time in London will not be forgotten. They may have been brief interludes
B the BookAddict
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
How this won a Pulitzer is beyond me. Just a Romance novel with some cynicism thrown in.
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
A novel about 2 American academics visiting Britain, falling in love and the consequences which follow. This novel is full of stereotypes that Academic Brits have about Americans and vice versa. This serves a clever purpose and moral by the end of the novel but my enjoyment of the book was diminished due to these exaggerated stereotypes which cut too close to the bone since I come from a family rife with British and American academics. Lurie knows her topic well and nails it.

This is a well writ
Kate Quinn
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Betsy Robinson
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
From the first sentence, I was sucked into this story of Vinnie Minor, a 54-year-old children’s literature professor with a lot of fixed ideas about other people and herself. She is a loner and likes it . . . until she allows herself to soften and change, and yet still be a loner.

This is a quiet story about truth and phoniness and relationships. The cover blurbs call it a comedy, which I found perplexing. I didn’t laugh once. But that didn’t matter. I was invested in and identified with Vinnie
I loved the idea of this story, and there is much in it I would normally like: An American in England, a middle-aged love story, a dog mascot, gossip, lots of tea drinking. Maybe if I’d pulled it randomly off the library shelf I would have enjoyed it more. But that “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize” at the top sets the expectations pretty high, and this just didn’t live up to them.

The plot was okay, and the story moved along well enough, but the writing style was disappointing. It’s so much harder t
Elizabeth (Alaska)
In the first few pages, I was amused to find one of the two primary characters reading The Singapore Grip - the novel I had finished just prior to starting this. Vinnie Miner is an English professor who specializes in children's literature. She is headed to London for 6 months on a research grant. The other primary character is Fred Turner, an assistant professor at the same University, who is also in London on a research grant. The alternating chapters are headed by first a children's rhyme (Vi ...more
It was a breath of fresh air to read a story that didn't involve young couples with or without children. And the main character, a 54 year old woman, is a college professor with an established reputation in children's literature. Sounds like a person I'd like. She has her own demons, including self-pity, but she recognizes her demons and gives them form in a mutt, mainly Welsh terrier, whom she has named Fido. Thus, the reader can recognize her mental state whenever Fido is trailing at her heels ...more
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
good to read b/c afterwards you'll feel like you too could write a pulitzer prize winning novel. ...more
Connie Mayo
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Comedy of manners, full of trenchant observations on human nature that made me laugh out loud. I was particularly fond of Vinnie's imaginary dog named Self-Pity. ...more
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie is the story of two American academics living and studying in the UK. Virgina (called Vinnie) is a middle aged single woman who specializes in American and British nursery rhymes. She is an admitted Anglophile and looking forward to six months on the island. Fred is a 28 year old lecturer. Very handsome and recently separated from his wife, he is lonely and depressed. Both find love interests: a big cowboy from Oklahoma for Vinnie and a titled and entitled actress ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Mary M
Apr 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
An uninteresting story about unlikable characters, and way too long. I have no idea how it won a Pulitzer.
Peter Tillman
From the publisher's preview, edited a bit:
The protag, a long-term UK resident and Anglophile, is drawn into a mortifying and oddly satisfying affair with an Oklahoma tourist, Chuck Mumpson.
As an Oklahoman, I was amused at her condescension. His name! She especially didn't like his Levi's and cowboy boots. Peasant. Do read it, if you missed it. Her best novel by far, imo. On the reread-again list. Fortunately, my wife has a copy.

Alison Lurie just passed away at age 94 -- almost exactly 20 years
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
In the mid-1980s, two English profs from a N.Y. liberal arts college are on sabbatical in London where they embark on unlikely affairs. This is supposed to be a comedy. Humor requires a set of shared assumptions or experiences in order for the ridicule to be perceived as funny. I lacked this shared world view, its stereotypes of insecure academics, American perceptions of British culture in the late 20th century, middle aged neurosis, etc. There were a few places where I understood that humor wa ...more
David Newman
May 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Emily M
2.5, rounded up for some original elements

This novel, horrible cover and all, was lent to me by a friend who has a history of lending me books with bad covers that turn out to be good, so I wasn’t put off. But meh.

Foreign Affairs was published in 1984 and it sometimes gives you that shock of how much life, or at least feminism, has changed. A main plotline involves a fifty-something American academic, dedicated Anglophile who thinks of herself as almost-British, and her six-month study leave in
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
I decided to review my original rating of this novel by listening to the Audible version. Unfortunately, the reader for this version has a very robotic intonation which I found off-putting, and her vocalising of the male characters just didn’t work. Apart from that, the novel still holds up, despite the somewhat stereotypical (deliberately so? ) descriptions of Americans and British characters. I would recommend reading this novel in the printed version.
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
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
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
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!
Oct 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pulitzers
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.
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Alison Lurie was a Pulitzer Prize–winning author of fiction, children's books 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 Engl

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28 likes · 2 comments
“early childhood she had given her deepest trust, and which for half a century has suggested what she might do, think, feel, desire, and become, has suddenly fallen silent. Now, at last, all those books have no instructions for her, no demands—because she is just too old. In the world of classic British fiction, the one Vinnie knows best, almost the entire population is under fifty, or even under forty—as was true of the real world when the novel was invented. The few older people—especially women—who are allowed into a story are usually cast as relatives; and Vinnie is no one’s mother, daughter, or sister. People over fifty who aren’t relatives are pushed into minor parts, character parts, and are usually portrayed as comic, pathetic, or disagreeable. Occasionally one will appear in the role of tutor or guide to some young protagonist, but more often than not their advice and example are bad; their histories a warning rather than a model. In most novels it is taken for granted that people over fifty are as set in their ways as elderly apple trees, and as permanently shaped and scarred by the years they have weathered. The literary convention is that nothing major can happen to them except through subtraction. They may be struck by lightning or pruned by the hand of man; they may grow weak or hollow; their sparse fruit may become misshapen, spotted, or sourly crabbed. They may endure these changes nobly or meanly. But they cannot, even under the best of conditions, put out new growth or burst into lush and unexpected bloom. Even today there are disproportionately few older characters in fiction. The” 4 likes
“Of course some people say it is her own fault that she’s alone: that she is impossibly romantic, asks too much (or too little) of men, is unreasonably jealous, egotistical/a doormat; sexually insatiable/frigid; and so on—the usual things people say of any unmarried woman, as Vinnie well knows.” 3 likes
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