Alison Lurie’s novel Foreign Affairs looks back a bit at the novels of manners written by Henry James as its inspiration, as she sets two faculty members from her fictitious college Corinth University (a flimsy dressing thrown over the real Cornell University, where Lurie taught for years) in England in the late eighties.
As such, the reader can expect the typical inspection of each culture’s faults and strengths. Lurie is in full command at the craft of novel writing, so this exercise never sinks into banality or cliche. She knows how to see the unusual in the usual, and set it all down in surprising and lively prose.
Lurie is very adept at following the tangles of human relationships; their interactions, interrelations and disjunctures. This is very much the case with this novel, but with an added element. Lurie takes a novel of social steps and missteps and creates a deep mediation on what it means to be in love and loved, alone and social. In all, what is means to be human.