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Becoming Strangersby Louise Dean
Synopses & Reviews
After more than half a century of marriage, Dorothy and George are embarking on their first journey abroad together. Three decades younger, Jan and Annemieke are taking their last, as illness and incompatibility bring their unhappy union to an end. At first the luxury of Caribbean resort is no match for the well-worn patterns of domestic life. Then the couples' paths cross, and a series of surprises ensues — a disappearance and an assault, most dramatically, but also a teapot tempest of passions, slights, misunderstandings, and small awakenings that punctuate a week in which each pair struggles to come to terms with what's been keeping them apart.
Becoming Strangers is a different kind of love story, in which there's seldom a "happily ever after" but sometimes a chance to redeem a life half-lived.
"What keeps an unhappily married couple together? In her impressive debut, long-listed for the 2004 Man Booker, Dean dissects two hollow unions against the sultry backdrop of a Caribbean resort. George and Dorothy Davis, an English couple married more than 50 years, are worn down by neglect and boredom; Jan and Annemieke de Groot, Belgians married 31 years, are pulled apart by Jan's terminal cancer, which exposes issues they've suppressed for years. Dean is at her best in interior moments, when characters ponder their lives with private, brutal candor. 'This was how they had always been,' Annemieke reflects on her marriage, 'his illness had simply developed the difference between them as light develops photographic film.' As for George and Dorothy, they seem awfully reminiscent of Edward Albee's spiteful George and Martha. 'You couldn't tell him that there was any marriage that wasn't equal measures love and hate,' George Davis reflects, who decides bitterly that his wife now 'wasn't content to have the last word; she had to have it twice.' On holiday, friendships form, affairs spark and revelations startle. Adept at sharp dialogue and brisk plotting, Dean is also attentive to character development, choosing authenticity over sentimentality in a book that is poignant, often funny and unexpectedly redemptive." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This rich story, replete with well-drawn characters, is not a happy one, but it is a masterpiece about the human condition that will rile the reader's emotions." Library Journal
"Dean suffuses [Becoming Strangers] with a comic touch and handles her several narrative threads with skill." Booklist
"Quite exceptional...There aren't many first-time novelists I'd dare to compare to Alan Bennett, but Louise Dean has his wicked yet empathetic eye, his ear for pathos, and his almost supernatural talent for observing and measuring the comedy and tragedy of ordinary, heartfelt lives." The Guardian (London)
"Becoming Strangers, British author Louise Dean's insightful debut, scrutinizes the crumbling marriage of a chic couple at a Carribean resort."—Vogue
After more than half a century of marriage, Dorothy and George are embarking on their first journey abroad together. Three decades younger, Jan and Annemieke are taking the last in their tumultuous union. At first the luxury of a Caribbean resort is no match for the habits of domestic life. Then the couples paths cross, and a series of surprises ensues—a disappearance and an assault, but also a teapot tempest of passions, slights, misunderstandings, and small awakenings that punctuate a week in which each pair struggles to come to terms with whats been keeping them apart. Becoming Strangers is a different kind of love story—bittersweet, bitingly funny, and ultimately redeeming.
"Dean peels back the skin of these marriages with an unflinching lack of sentimentality and an immense talent for close observation and evocative, often poetic detail. She can reach straight into a characters heart . . . The ending is unexpected, yet entirely deserved. Dean has produced an ideal novel right out of the box."—The Atlantic Monthly
"Dean handles the expanding roster of characters effortlessly . . . She seems to eye them all from a distance, waiting patiently for them to reveal themselves."—The New York Times Book Review
LOUISE DEAN lives in France. Becoming Strangers, long-listed for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and winner of the Betty Trask Prize and the 2006 Le Prince Maurice Prize, is her first book.
Reading Group Guide available at www.HarcourtBooks.com
About the Author
Louise Dean is the author of Becoming Strangers, which won the Betty Trask Award and was long-listed for the 2004 Man Booker Prize as well as the Guardian First Novel Award. She lives in France.
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