The Comfort of Strangers

The Comfort of Strangers - Ian McEwan Like the post-9/11 milieu that permeated [b:Saturday|5015|Saturday|Ian McEwan||2307189], and [b:Black Dogs|6871|Black Dogs|Ian McEwan||2493679]'s Cold War spell well before it, The Comfort of Strangers feels like a political novel disguised as a social one. But whose politics? Is this McEwan exploding post-WW2 Europe? Is the lust here a parable, and if so, for what? What does the lovemaking between Colin and Mary say differently than that between Robert and Caroline if these were not characters but states? This is the rewarding frustration of Ian McEwan's work -- that it can seem more than it is because the lines of it are so clearly drawn. Never needlessly expositive or over-adorned with description, the world is so stark that it feels like parable even when its objective could be, as McEwan has explored many times before, examining love, or marriage, or sex, to lengths where this need for unity fails its human actors. So it seems not to matter if this novel of sex and power is also a novel of war, because in love, war is inherent: its demands are inhuman, devouring, inevitable. That is not so much history as it is human life. McEwan's genius is in painting one so well as to take on the shape of the other.