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The Comfort of Strangers

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  13,388 ratings  ·  1,122 reviews
"Haunting and compelling." --The Times

As their holiday unfolds, Colin and Maria are locked into their own intimacy. They groom themselves meticulously, as though there waits someone who cares deeply about how they appear. Then they meet a man with a disturbing story to tell and become drawn into a fantasy of violence and obsession.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published November 1st 1994 by Anchor (first published 1981)
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3.41  · 
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 ·  13,388 ratings  ·  1,122 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Jun 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
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

As I have taught teenagers the art of writing an essay, and they have taught me the art of detecting a shortcut, I will apply it here (the shortcut, that is), for honestly, the deeply hidden teenager in me tells me that I should not, under any circumstances, waste too much time writing a review of this book. To search for a reasonable plot, characterisation, or purpose (except for cheap voyeurism and violence) is quite futile. I should, however, mark it as read and forgettable befor
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
رجلا كنت ام إمرأة فلتتحفظ قليلا مع الغرباء
اوصي بهذه الرواية لكل من ينوىالسفر
افتكر اني قلت لك: بلاش..بلاش تسافر بسبب الملل لأن:الملل هو مصدر كل الخطايا القاتلة
و لا اوصي بالرواية لكل مقدم على الزواج*
فهي تنفرك من الحميمية بكل مستوياتها
Commercial Photography
حيرتني كثيرا تناقضات هذه الرواية ؛فدقة السرد و انسيابه و التفاصيل و التدفق البشري التلقائي للمشاعر :مبهر.. اما الاخطاء اللا المنطقية في حبكة نصف الروايةالثاني: مفجعة

Commercial Photography

ماري و كولين ثنائي بريطاني ينطلق الي بلد اوروبي مجهول لقضاء اجازة تاركين أبناء ماري خلفهما ..يعاني ال

I normally don't write negative reviews. But this novel far too long bothered me so I need to get out it of my system. I hope it helps.

Definitely the worst McEwan’s novel I’ve read by now. It’s creepy and stupid. I mean protagonists are stupid and some creepy things happen to them. Probably because they are stupid. Colin and Mary go for a holiday to take some rest, escape ennui and maybe rekindle withered desire. Since I’m generous today I imagine for them Venice, though I don't remember if the
Glenn Sumi
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yikes. Did I just read that? Or did I dream it?
- thoughts just after finishing The Comfort Of Strangers

3.5 rounded up to 4.

After reading three Ian McEwan novels, each one different but all rather elegant and civilized, I thought I’d try one of his early books, written back when he had the nickname “Ian Macabre.”

The Comfort Of Strangers (1981) is a chilling psychological thriller about Colin and Mary, an attractive, if rather self-absorbed, unmarried couple who are vacationing in an unnamed ci
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I seem to be in the minority based on the ratings, but something about this story grabbed me right from the start.  There is irony in the title as the story brings anything but comfort, which may actually be why I liked it.  The characters are rather strange and unlikable, their relationships are strained, and the story reaffirms everything you were taught as a child about not talking to strangers.  An English couple’s holiday takes on an eerie twist when they find themselves lured in by a stran ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
"The Comfort of Strangers" is the unfortunate combination of two of McEwan's worst books (which were published decades later, obviously): "Saturday" & "On Chesil Beach." It has that PVoAA (Powerful Voice of Authentic Authority), or that I've-published-stuff-now-I-will-see-places-with-the-eyes-of-a-wealthy-man tone. Ya know, the rich who think they're above even common violence (made, obviously, more "horrific" by their occurrence to a man of abundant means, gag). It also has that cringe-wort ...more
Matteo Fumagalli


Una vacanza all'inferno, quella che fanno Colin e Mary, innamoratissimi ma con la passione sessuale non più accesa come un tempo. Un continuo girovagare in una città marittima disorganizzata e senza indicazioni (È Venezia? Il lettore se ne accorge, ma è come se gli stessi personaggi non lo sappiano affatto), un non-luogo torrido, incredibilmente desolante e privo di coordinate come la psiche umana (o di coppia?). Un romanzo psicologico
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inglesi
Colin e Mary sono una coppia di turisti in vacanza. Sono indolenti, vivono le loro giornate fra le lenzuola fresche di un hotel, uscendo la sera a cena, bevendo e fumando qualcosa. Non sappiamo dove sono. Una città che dalla descrizione sembrerebbe Venezia. E ci trascinano nelle loro giornate senza senso, in discussioni silenziose in un tempo immobile, in un’abitudine ai loro corpi che è normalità, piacere, delicatezza e conforto. Ognuno si prende cura dell’altro come sa. La certezza dell’esserc ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, short-fiction
[4.5 stars]

McEwan has a fixation on the intimacy between men and women, both physical and emotional, and he explores that in a fascinating way in The Comfort of Strangers.

The story follows Colin and Mary, a couple who've been together for several years but aren't married, as they spend a holiday in an unnamed city (though it's very clearly Venice—why McEwan chooses to keep this masked intrigues me). They are both quite normal, just as self-absorbed, misguided and flawed as anyone. One evening th
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  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
Julie Christine
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 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novellas, suspense
This is the earliest McEwan work I’ve read (1981). I could see the seeds of his classic themes: obsession, sexual and otherwise; and the slow building of suspense and awareness until an inevitable short burst of violence. Mary and Colin are a vacationing couple in Venice. One evening they’ve spent so long in bed that by the time they get out all the local restaurants have shut, but a bar-owner takes pity and gives them sustenance, then a place to rest and wash when they get lost and fail to loca ...more
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gran-bretagna
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.
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the first half of The Stranger with slightly less philosophy - it makes characterizations through geography and weather; the oppressive heat of summer and the ways it affects the characters and their moods is somewhat of a common theme in both of these.

It is also like The Talented Mr Ripley with its American/English characters in an Italian setting, strong sexual undertones, and disquieting atmosphere. It is more concise and has a bit less backstabbing and manipulating than Ripley, but i
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1001, mcewan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 yo
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, read-in-2012
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
Nov 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
"Δεν ήταν πια ένα μεγάλο πάθος. Οι χαρές τους βρίσκονταν στην αβίαστη συντροφικότητα, την οικειότητα των συνηθειών και των τρόπων, το σίγουρο, ακριβές ταίριαγμα μελών κ σωμάτων, τόσο άνετο, όσο η εφαρμογή ενός εκμαγείου στο καλούπι του. Ήταν γενναιόδωροι κ νωχελικοί, δεν ζητούσαν ιδιαίτερα πράγματα κ έκαναν πολύ λίγο θόρυβο. Έκαναν έρωτα χωρίς ξεκάθαρη αρχή ή τέλος, που συχνά κατέληγε ή διακοπτόταν απ'τον ύπνο. Ήταν έτοιμοι να αρνηθούν με αγανάκτηση πως έπλητταν".

Η υπέροχη παράγραφος παραπάνω πε
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WARNING : Alta Tensione

Una coppia inglese ,Colin e Mary, sta trascorrendo qualche settimana a Venezia.

Non era più una grande passione.
Il piacere stava soprattutto nell'amichevole mancanza di fretta, nella familiarità dei rituali e delle procedure, nel sicuro, preciso incastro di membra e corpi, confortevole come un calco di gesso che torna nella forma. Erano generosi e voluttuosi, scarsamente esigenti e per nulla rumorosi. Il loro modo di fare l'amore non aveva un chiaro inizio o una chiara f
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 15, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1980s, ed-einaudi, uk
Dio mio.
Allora, con calma: un romanzo che divide, che ad alcuni è piaciuto e ad altri ha fatto schifo, senza tante vie di mezzo.
A me ha fatto effetto, diciamo. Piacere è un'altra cosa, ma poche altre letture mi hanno turbata e affascinata e contemporaneamente creato repulsione quanto questa opera "giovanile" di McEwan.
Da quando si capisce che dietro alle cortesie da parte della coppia autoctona verso i due turisti c'è qualcosa di losco e torbido ho fatto fatica a proseguire. Le ultime pagine non
A somewhat sinister and disturbing novella of dominance and obsession between two couples. Not a novella to easily recommend. Would agree with other reviews, there isn't a lot of character development to gain real insight into the motivation and subsequent actions taken by the main characters. An interesting premise but not well executed.
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, 0-gut-emotions
Lettura veloce, incalzante che trasmette gradualmente la curiosità e l'angoscia del finale. La riuscita è decisamente migliore rispetto a "Chesil Beach". A questo punto, mi cimenterò con qualcos'altro di McEwan, anche se sono ancora un po' scettica.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Two lovers no longer in their first flush of youth, Mary and Colin, are on holiday in a city that seems very much like Venice, hoping to rekindle the passion that has ebbed from their relationship; Mary's occasional worries about how her kids are getting along with their father hardly help the cause.

One night, while lost among the city's twisting streets, they encounter the enigmatic Robert. Soon he and his wife, the near-crippled Caroline, have more or less taken over the English couple's lives
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
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, fiction
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
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this short novel about a couple on holiday in an unnamed tourist destination, Ian McEwan gives us a creepy horror story, or perhaps it’s better described as a Gothic one. Strictly speaking, it’s not Gothic, there are no vampires or monsters, but it has a similar feeling to me. That foreboding feeling of dread. Moments of super-creepiness. And the interweaving of sex with terror and violence.

Through the eyes of Colin and Mary, we are in unfamiliar territory. Tourists in a foreign country. McEw
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sometimes I wonder about McEwan’s must be a strange place he lives in:-) The vices and eccentricities of his characters are very remarkable, to say at least.
This is one of his early novels and for me didn’t show the control and power his style/language has in later books. At the same time, it allready shows his great talent, his love for the unusual, the strange twists of relationships that look very normal.
I liked it a lot but not as much as some of his other novels.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt
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
Yve Chairez
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Will Ansbacher
Mar 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook, mystery, menace
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
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
Big disappointment, since I loved some of McEwan's other books. Bizarre, disturbing, depressing but ultimately pointless.
È il terzo libro di McEwan che leggo, e credo di poter confermare il mio amore/odio per lui.
Amore perché è molto bravo nella descrizione delle scene, fa ben comprendere la psicologia dei suoi personaggi, riesce a mantenere sveglio il mio interesse nella lettura trascinandomi nei suoi dettagli.
Ma odio perché le trame sono molto minimali: succede poco o niente. Le azioni si trascinano, e continuo a leggere per curiosità perché non capisco dove l’autore voglia andare a parare, sperando in una scena
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well, that was a bit pointless. Beautifully written, but utterly absurd in almost every aspect. I'm struggling to even think of enough things to say about it since 90% of the book is about our protagonists being incompetent tourists, while the other 10% is filled with random people being as entertaining as they are random. I also use the word 'entertaining' lightly here, since it's a very dark, somewhat voyeuristic kind of entertainment that you almost feel guilty for enjoying.

There's definitel
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Geniale come sempre
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Ian McEwan studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later 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 Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and
“...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.” 21 likes
“She sleepwalked from moment to moment, and whole months slipped by without memory, without bearing the faintest imprint of her conscious will. ” 20 likes
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