Foreign Affairs

Narrated by: Jennifer Van Dyck
Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins
4 out of 5 stars (224 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Virginia Miner, a 50-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 tourist who dresses more Bronco Billy than Beau Brummel.

Also in London is Vinnie's colleague, Fred Turner, a handsome, flat broke, newly separated, and thoroughly miserable young man trying to focus on his own research. Instead, he is distracted by a beautiful and unpredictable English actress and the world she belongs to. Both American, both abroad, and both achingly lonely, Vinnie and Fred play out their confused alienation and dizzying romantic liaisons in Alison Lurie's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Smartly written, poignant, and witty, Foreign Affairs remains an enduring comic masterpiece.

©2006 Alison Lurie (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A splendid comedy, very bright, brilliantly written in a confident and original manner. The best book by one of our finest writers." (Elizabeth Hardwick)
  • Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 1984

"If you manage to read only a few good novels a year, make this one of them." ( USA Today)

What listeners say about Foreign Affairs

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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

Any additional comments?

I don't remember what attracted me to this title, probably the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. But, now I'm reading all of Alison Lurie's novels and it turns out there is one family that connects the books so it's worth the effort to read them in sequence. I wish I'd realized that because Foreign Affairs is somewhere in the middle, though it works as a stand alone novel as well. Beautifully written.

17 people found this helpful

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Laura Ashley dress reference brought me back!

Being nearly 50 myself, I've been looking for books that have older female protagonists. I'm curious about how others of that age navigate life. This one did feel a bit outdated, being written in the 80's, but it was a fun listen. I had to laugh when she talked about wearing her flowery Laura Ashley dress! Vinnie, the main character, is a bit of a fuss-budget, but she experiences some growth, in that she starts out far more of a snob than she ends up. I thought it was a good expat book. Being an expat myself, I heard a lot of my own thoughts echoed in the characters here. While there are some who question the book's winning a Pulitzer, saying it was just a romance novel, I think they missed a lot of the insights that were explored, the struggles we experience when our identities are challenged and the ways in which we miss having relationships with people because we are so worried about how hanging out with someone who is different from us will affect the ways in which others see us. It reveals that those assumptions we make about others can be so misguided. There's a lot of affectionate poking fun at pretentiousness, and one can't deny that many of us engage in that behavior. And I know I have my own invisible dog :-) I'm glad I'm not the only one. Come along Fido.

7 people found this helpful

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Clever Title

If you could sum up Foreign Affairs in three words, what would they be?

Characters diverse and interesting

What was one of the most memorable moments of Foreign Affairs?

When one character had been posing as two.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Yes

Who was the most memorable character of Foreign Affairs and why?

The actress

Any additional comments?

Yes- I am submitting this review only because it,s important that your narrators pronounce locations, people,s names etc. properly. In the age of the Internet , it is inexcusable, it would take two minutes to find out how the composer Purcell is said and Muskogee as in the turnpike. Very unprofessional and downright lazy!

3 people found this helpful

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a unique story of 2 American academics in London

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 for Fred.

This is the story of struggle. Vinnie wants to hide her lover from her British friends. She is embarrassed by him, but finds her desire growing. And Fred wants more attention from his lover, because he is used to women throwing themselves at him. Both find themselves in sweet, funny, new situations that surprise them and help them grow. Lurie does a good job showing all the complexities of relationships, but this is not a romance novel. It is an exploration of much more: how do we define ourselves, how do we grow and change, and how do we work together with others to have valuable, rewarding relationships.

The ending was unexpected, and for me that is always a good thing. I like books best when they do not go with what is predictable.

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Just Right

Not what I'd imagined, it had a few curve balls. I enjoyed it, want to read more by this author.

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Awful

Boring and pseudo clever. One of the worst ever and a total waste of time.

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  • Alison
  • 06-18-12

An old favourite

I read this book and all AL's books when I was teenager and in my 20s - some time ago! Sometimes old favourites don't stand the test of time but this one did. The narration is clipped and sharp, and this slightly put me off at the start as the voice wasn't how imagined the main character at all - but in fact it was perfect. The story is quite slight but the plot isn't the chief reason for reading books like these. The observational style and witty though often moving content is the point. I loved the tension between two national cultures, England and the USA, seen through the eyes of the Americans in London. A very enjoyable listen.

2 people found this helpful

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  • RRF
  • 05-04-16

redemption of a mean little person?

What disappointed you about Foreign Affairs?

the way it was read -- very distracting. The intonation almost never matched the expression described in the text -- e.g. what was supposed to be said "in a flat voice" was read breathily; all the "Hmm", "Mmm", "Umm"s etc, sounded exactly the same; accents were questionable; etc. Every time I began to believe in the narrative I was distracted by the non-credibility of the delivery.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Foreign Affairs?

When Chuck decided not to be disappointed about his ancestors.

Would you be willing to try another one of Jennifer Van Dyck’s performances?

No.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The stories about people learning and changing.

Any additional comments?

It was uncomfortable and tiring to be in the presence of mean little Vinnie Miner for so long.

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  • kate
  • 12-04-15

LAUGH OUT LOUD FUNNY

Would you consider the audio edition of Foreign Affairs to be better than the print version?

Yes, I think this audio book is better than the print version. The delivery is excellent & it's laugh-out-loud funny. It's an incredibly perceptive tale of Anglo-American perceptions, relationships, misunderstanding, acutely observed & somewhat lovingly ridiculed. I can't recommend it highly enough. A wonderful discovery.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Chuck Mumsen was my favourite character. Larger than life, big-hearted, sexy & very funny. The telling of him is funny & in the end .... (no, no spoiler!! ... ) He's just great, I liked him. Really shows up the condescension & pretensions of us (Little) Englanders ...

Which character – as performed by Jennifer Van Dyck – was your favourite?

She performs all characters incredibly well. I think her performance of Vinnie is just brilliant. (Professor Miner.) The performances really come alive. I enjoyed them so much! Very well done & - thank God! NOT TOO FAST! So glad she took her time, & even allowed the proper pauses. She doesn't rush it like so many actors. Chuck's daughter was also brilliantly done. & the swearing schoolgirl!! ....

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Love in a wet climate ?? ...

Any additional comments?

I can't recommend this highly enough. Absolutely loved it! Great author, & this book won the Pulitzer Prize! ....