It's not unusual to feel slightly off kilter while traveling, especially in a foreign country. We eat more, we drink more, sleep patterns are altered, there may be a language barrier, and it's easy to get lost.
Such is the case for Colin and Mary. Wandering around an unnamed city late at night in search of an open restaurant, they are befriended by Robert, a stranger who takes them to an out-of-the-way bar. Initially they're happy to meet a native and visit an establishment frequented by locals, but a feeling of unease gradually grows. After a chance meeting the next morning (the couple got lost and never made it back to their hotel), Colin and Mary end up at Robert's home. Here the story becomes uncomfortable. The plot takes a turn toward the twisted and odd. I won't elaborate further, but be aware this psychological thriller is rife with sexual overtones. The cover illustration hints at a voyeuristic component to the relationship. Indeed, at times, I felt like an voyeur by simply listening.
Alex Jennings' narration is flawless. Although listening was not my first choice, I'm glad now there were no print copies available in the library system. A pervasive feeling of unease is, perhaps, even more palpable on audio.
I initially wondered at McEwan's failure to name the city, ostensibly Venice, but later decided it enhanced the mood. Leaving it unnamed accentuated the sense of disorientation.
The Comfort of Strangers (1981) was a gripping, yet disturbing book. Listening seemed to make it even more compelling. I was forewarned, but chose to proceed anyway. While not exactly a likable book, it was very good.
Chivers Audiobooks, 2001
3 hours 49 minutes