Foreign Bodies

By Cynthia Ozick
(Atlantic, Hardcover, 9781848877351)

Publication Date: June 2011

Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover, Paperback, Hardcover, Paperback

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the November 2010 Indie Notables
“I can't recall reading The Ambassadors in college, but familiarity with that novel is not necessary to enjoy this 'retelling' of the tale in contemporary form. The protagonist, Bea Nightingale, is an intriguing character, and the story is an engaging one, with emotional family entanglements handled brilliantly by a masterful storyteller.”
-- Betsey Detwiler, Buttonwood Books & Toys, Cohasset, MA


"An absorbing achievement ... A nimble, entertaining literary homage, but it is also, chillingly, what James would have called 'the real thing.'"--"New York Times Book Review"

Cynthia Ozick is a literary treasure. In her sixth novel, she retraces Henry James's "The Ambassadors" and delivers a brilliant, utterly new American classic.

At the center of the story is Bea Nightingale, a fiftyish divorced schoolteacher whose life has been on hold during the many years since her brief marriage. When her estranged, difficult brother asks her to travel to Europe to retrieve a nephew she barely knows, she becomes entangled in the lives of his family. Over the course of a few months she travels from New York to Paris to Hollywood, aiding and abetting her nephew and niece while waging a war of letters with her brother, and finally facing her ex-husband to shake off his lingering sneers from decades past. As she inadvertently wreaks havoc in their lives, every one of them is irrevocably changed.
"Raucous, funny, ferocious, and tragic. A literary master, as James was, Ozick makes all those qualities fit together seamlessly, and with heartbreaking effect."--"Philadelphia Inquirer"
"Dazzling, even masterful."--"Entertainment Weekly"

Conversation Starters from


  1. Foreign Bodies is described as a “photographic negative” of Henry James’s classic novel The Ambassadors; in the New York Times, Charles McGrath described the similarities between the two books as “like someone pulling a glove inside-out.” How does Ozick achieve this?  What do you think might have been her motivation? And what do you think of re-writing a classic American novel?  

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