On Our Bookshelves:
Foreign Affairs

NOVEL: Foreign Affairs

AUTHOR: Alison Lurie



Americans abroad, new world innocence contrasted with old world experience…it’s a tale as old as, well, as Henry James, at the very least.

In the 103 years which separate the publication of The Portrait of a Lady and Foreign Affairs, a great deal has changed.  The stakes are much lower in the 1980s; divorce is now a private tragedy, not an irreparable break of the social code.

Perhaps that is why the stories of Virginia Miner, a schoolmarm-ish middle aged unhappy and lonely American academic, and Fred Turner, a young and handsome unhappy and lonely American academic, and their surprising romantic liaisons on the other side of the pond are so much fun to read.

The love affairs don’t end happily, as is so often the case (and Lurie throws in a few rather surprising plot twists towards the end…in its own gentle way, it’s a bit of a page turner), but the characters grow, and come back to their regular lives in the USA a bit wiser, a bit kinder, a bit more honest with themselves, and a bit more whole.

Travel, whether it be in the nineteenth or the twentieth century, can still be quite a transformative experience.  And so can love.

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): Four Whistles




Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Heads In Beds, Jacob Tomsky

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

Up At The Villa, W. Somerset Maugham


Image of Eros Statue, Piccadilly Circus, London: bikeworldtravel/Shutterstock.com


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com