Summary and book reviews of Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean

Becoming Strangers

by Louise Dean

Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean X
Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Two couples meet in a luxurious Caribbean resort - one pair older, the other younger. As their paths cross during the week, each couple struggles with what has been keeping them apart.

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 a 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.

A hit with readers and critics alike when it was published in England in 2005, Becoming Strangers is a different kind of love story, in which there's seldom a happy ending but sometimes a chance to redeem a life half-lived.

1

Before he'd had cancer he'd been bored with life. Since he'd taken dying seriously, he'd been busy; he was occupied with understanding the disease and training his body to resist it. How hardy he was, physically. Six years of operations and excisions, starting with his chest, then the cancerous cells had metastasized to his lungs and on to his liver. A suite of initial excisions revealed each encampment to be partially malignant. He'd insisted on warfare. Each time the doctors told him and his family the chances of recovery were poor and the recurrence of cancer a likelihood. Year after year a fresh crop of cells emerged, excisions followed and he lived. The knife-and-forking of his body seemed to give a perverse impetus to his will to survive.

His tenacious hold on life was partly begotten by the conviction that his life must have accrued some value over time. What about all the sights and sounds recorded, all those thoughts tracked? They must be worth ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Becoming Strangers is a notably assured, engaging, and perceptive debut novel about two married European couples on holiday in the Caribbean. In telling their separate and combined stories, in revealing their backgrounds and orchestrating their interactions, Louise Dean has crafted a “delicately powerful [and] impressive” account (Sunday Times, UK).

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 meanwhile taking their last, as illness and incompatibility bring their unhappy union to an end. Initially, the luxury of an island resort is no match for the well-worn patterns of domestic life. Then the couples’ ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Dean's ability to portray the tragic-comedy of everyday lives with empathic but laser-sharp wit sets Becoming Strangers way above most first novels, and presages a wonderful future for this talented author.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review (334 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.

Media Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle - Patricia Conover
Dean writes as a poet, creating sinewy phrases with seeming effortlessness. At times, her sheer talent takes one's breath away in its rigorous complexity and lyrical dazzle.

Kirkus Reviews
Dean's grasp of the material is shaky and her voice erratic.

Booklist - Mary Ellen Quinn
The novel might have sunk under the weight of its themes of loss, but Dean suffuses it with a comic touch and handles her several narrative threads with skill. Give this to readers who enjoy thoughtful character-centered fiction.

Publisher's Weekly
A book that is poignant, often funny and unexpectedly redemptive.

The Guardian
Louise Dean has her wicked yet empathetic eye, her ear for pathos, and her almost supernatural talent for observing and measuring the comedy and tragedy of ordinary, heartfelt lives.

The Economist - Fiammetta Rocco
After reading more than 50,000 pages of fiction (as one of the judges of the Man Booker Prize), I take away an introduction to two or three immense new talents I had not known before, and a clear memory of reading what was to become my favourite sentence: "The South African pulled his short shorts back up from around his ankles and positioned his genitals gamely inside the fishing-net interior".

The Independent - Jonathan Myerson
This is the sort of book that makes you want immediately to go back to page one and start again. The entire story is perfectly balanced, with each sin weighed against a kindness, each act of selfishness underpinned by a deeply-held belief.

The Times - Fiona Hook
Louise Dean is biblically prodigal with the sharp soundbite, casually sowing them into her text without waiting to see if they yield a harvest reaction.

The Sunday Times - Alex Clark
"Nothing makes you good, not even the life we want can do that, not even success." But that realisation, Dean suggests, may provide the briefest of opportunities to rectify matters, and her impressive, unsentimental and unshowy novel shows how that process might be begun.

Reader Reviews

pointereader

Characters Big, Action Small
I picked this up for its setting--the Caribbean--because I was headed there. It was a good enough beach read: interesting characters, several lovely passages, some deep thought (nothing too strenuous), but I kept feeling like I'd already read the "...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Louise Dean was born in 1970 and brought up in Kent.  She received a BA Hons in History from Downing College, Cambridge in 1991.  After spending time in Hong Kong and New York, she is now married with three children and splits her time between France and England.

Becoming Strangers is her first novel.  It was long-listed for the 2004 Man Booker Prize, and was the only title to be voted onto the long-list unanimously by all judges. It was also a finalist for The Guardian Best First Novel Award and won the Betty Trask prize (...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Becoming Strangers, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Beauty in the Broken Places
    Beauty in the Broken Places
    by Allison Pataki
    Ernest Hemingway wrote that we are "strong at the broken places," and Allison Pataki found that to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes was read and reviewed by 22 BookBrowse members for First ...
  • Book Jacket: The Judge Hunter
    The Judge Hunter
    by Christopher Buckley
    In London 1664, Balthasar de St. Michel or "Balty" has no discernable skills besides pestering his ...
  • Book Jacket: Star of the North
    Star of the North
    by D.B. John
    It's summertime. You're looking for an absorbing thriller while you flop at the beach. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Tabor
    by Cherise Wolas

    Wolas's gorgeously rendered sophomore novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Clock Dance
    by Anne Tyler

    A delightful novel of one woman's transformative journey, from the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.