‘Becoming Strangers’ by Louise Dean – A Caribbean Resort Vacation


‘Becoming Strangers’ by Louise Dean   (2004) – 305 pages


Ever since I read ‘The Old Romantic’ in 2011, I’ve been waiting for Louise Dean to publish her next novel. ‘The Old Romantic’ was my favorite novel that I read in 2011. Dean still has not published any more novels since then, so now I gave up waiting and decided to read her first novel, ‘Becoming Strangers’, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize instead.

‘Becoming Strangers’ is about a group of people staying at a Caribbean spa resort. As with most vacations, you share a closeness with a few others who are also staying at the resort, but chances are you will never see them again. However for those few days, those staying there with you are vivid and significant.

We have the elderly working class couple George and Dorothy who have never before stayed at a fancy resort like this. There is the middle-aged Dutch couple in their fifties, Jan DeGroot who has terminal cancer and his over-sexed wife Annemieke. Then you have the available Irish businessman Bill Moloney and the young resort workman Adam, as well as the American couple Jason and Missy and the resort manager Burns.

One of Louise Dean’s real strengths as a writer is dialogue, and the witty and wicked interchanges between these various characters at the resort are never less than entertaining and are one of the highlights of ‘Becoming Strangers’.

As on any good holiday vacation, some notable and memorable events occur among the resort guests, events that will make a few of the guests question their entire life situations past and present.

I found the novel a bit too digressive and meandering, especially in the early parts. It takes awhile to establish all of these people. Somehow it does not quite cohere. It is never less than interesting; it is never more than interesting.

There is only one quote from the book which I want to share:

There are two types of people – the righteous who are sinners and the sinners who are righteous.”

I am still trying to figure out what that means.

This could be a case when my extremely high expectations based on a previous novel by the author were not quite met.


Grade:   B



3 responses to this post.

  1. *chuckle* That’s the kind of epigram that first-time writers often think is terribly clever…It means only that we are all flawed and some of us won’t admit it to ourselves or other people. It’s not terribly earth-shattering to learn that… most kids learn it at school when some other kid lies about not being involved in some misdemeanour.
    Still, I think any novel framed around a bunch of strangers thrown together and being tested in some way can be interesting, and sometimes illuminating about human nature. Hotel novels, boarding-house novels, office novels, even the one that I’ve just read — Caught by Henry Green — where a bunch of volunteers of different backgrounds and experiences come together to form the Fire Service during the Blitz. These novels IMO depend on mastery of dialogue, because (until The Big Moment/Test occurs) that is all that the characters have to discover each other. As you say, Louise Dean has this skill with dialogue. I didn’t comment on it in my review of This Human Season except to admire the way she used banter to leaven a grim story about The Troubles.
    I looked her up at Goodreads because I admire her writing too. It has been a while since her last novel, though it looks as if she’s contributed to an anthology or two. WP is vague about dates, but it looks as if she was born in the 70s or thereabouts, so perhaps there will be more?

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      I believe your premise is sound. When a novel has a group of strangers thrown together, it helps for the writer to have a mastery of dialogue. For one thing, the words and the way a person speaks can differentiate them from the other characters. It’s a weakness of a novel if all the characters speak similarly. Louise Dean is very good on dialogue and having her characters speak in their own individual ways.
      I read ‘The Human Season’ a long time ago, and that novel got me started on Louise Dean, and then I was completely impressed with ‘The Old Romantic’. I’m hoping Dean will come out with another novel soon, but since she has been writing stories lately, we might get a story collection first.



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