The Comfort of Strangers

This sleepy vacation novel turns into horror story toward the end; Colin and Mary are disinterested lovers on vacation, rekindling their love interest. They bump into Robert, who takes them to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to dine with the locals. C & M end up staying with Robert and his wife Caroline, who is crippled. Violent scenes follow.
Originally didn’t think that I liked it too much, but it has stuck with me more than McEwan’s other works have (very different from the bland Atonement).

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Imperial San Francisco

Not my words (didn’t capture them at the time of reading):
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Challenging San Francisco’s popular image as a tolerant, carefree, gracious city, Brechin unearths 150 years of deeply unsettling history. San Francisco’s founding aristocracy were Southerners drawn to California as a mecca newly opened up for enterprise–particularly for plantation culture. After the 1849 gold rush, San Francisco was built on what Brechin terms a “Pyramid of Mining”–a pre-capitalist financial structure employed from Roman times through the Renaissance, uniting miners, financiers, the military and land speculators in a power elite whose only concern was limitless economic growth. While press lord William Randolph Hearst converted a mining fortune into a media conglomerate preaching the superiority of “the American race” and calling for the annexation of Mexico, other San Franciscan power brokers, according to Brechin, channeled mining profits into gas works, currency speculation, political and judicial bribery and the exploitation of forests. From Nevada to Northern California, they wrecked towns, deforested the pristine Lake Tahoe region, buried acres of farmland under mining debris and contaminated the soil, lakes and rivers. A historical geographer and coauthor of Farewell, Promised Land, Brechin concludes with a look at the University of California’s pioneering nuclear research program laid the groundwork for the Manhattan Project. Enlivened with period engravings, photos, political cartoons, magazine art, posters and maps, this stirring, environmentally conscious history ranks with Kevin Starr’s Americans and the California Dream, powerfully establishing the city on the bay as a true emblem of the atomic age.

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Beginning in the 1930s, a young Briony accuses the cleaning lady’s son of assaulting her visiting cousin, Lola, because Briony found a note from Robbie to her sister Ceclia. This is amidst attempts of Briony to have her visiting cousins act in her play, The Trials of Arabella. The rest of the book follows Briony through adulthood as she tries to make up for her earlier indescretion that affected Robbie, Cecila, & her lives. We shift to France in 1941, with Robbie in the British Army, and to the London military hospitals where both Cecilia and Briony are training to be nurses.

Continue reading “Atonement”