Foreign Affairs

Alison Lurie’s 1984 novel ‘Foreign Affairs’ was the winner of the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which I finished reading yesterday.

The book immediately grasped my attention which it held throughout 279 pages of this tale of donnish and less intellectual American temporary residents and tourists and their interwoven relationships with each other and with English natives.

Displaying an intimate knowledge of London in particular and the theatrical and academic milieus of her protagonists; blessed with a wide vocabulary, descriptive skills, and witty and insightful understanding of the minds and dialogue of her characters; and a knowledge of how those on either side of the Atlantic regard each other, Lurie weaves a complex story with delightful aplomb.

As usual I will not relate details of the tale, save to say that the final few chapters contain surprises to which the writer lays subtle unstated clues along the way.

Maybe readers will need to be of a certain age to know why I unsuccessfully searched Google for links between this book and Kathleen Harrison, a wonderful English character actress from the middle decades of the twentieth century.

I have no idea how I came by my copy, an Abacus paperback with browned pages, bearing this inscription and containing the owl bookmark. I have only ever known one Leonie, who was Director of the Phyllis Holman Richards Adoption Society to which I was a consultant from 1986 onwards. She returned to her native South Africa some years later. If you should happen to read this, I can’t imagine that I purloined your book Leonie.