by Alison Lurie
Reviewed by Mary Stein, Friday Morning Book Club
2004) When first published, Foreign Affairs received
raves and the 1985 Pulitzer Prize. That prompted our book
club to select this novel, which delves into the world of
US college professors temporarily living in London in the
The central character, English professor Virginia Miner, is an "invisible,"
plain, unmarried middle-aged woman, who nonetheless has a healthy interest in
sex as evidenced through her affair with the improbable Chuck Mumpson, an Oklahoman
engineer given to wearing
Western garb and a plastic raincoat. Virginia's handsome, young, untenured
colleague, Fred Turner, is estranged from his earthy artist wife, Roo, and gets
with Rosemary Radler,
a British movie star who is glamorous, phony and disturbed.
Their lives entwine with each other and with other Americans and
Brits in the London scene of parties, theater, lunch dates, and touring. Quotes
references from adult and
children's literature are scattered throughout the novel and give added dimension
to the work.
English majors and aficionados of John Gay's The Beggars Opera will especially
Our group talked about the many themes we found in this satire: physical beauty, age,
male-female relationships, career jealousy, arrogance, using people for selfish reasons,
differences and similarities between the American and British social caste system, and our
connection with British adult and children's literature.
We enjoyed Lurie's observations and sense of humor, including the way she poked fun at academic
jealousies and feelings of superiority. We talked about the invisibility of women who are
either not beautiful or who are middle aged. Some of us found aspects of Rosemary's disturbed
life not believable. However, we all seemed to enjoy Lurie's insight into adults' love for
children's literature, "a passionate longing, not for children, but for one's own lost
We began our group discussion wondering why this novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
After an enriching conversation, we ended with a deeper understanding and appreciation of
Read the book. You may like it.
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