...[an] absorbing account ... Kaplan tells this story with great verve and insight, all the while preserving the mystery of its creation and elusiveness of its meaning ... While some might question Kaplan’s claim that the novel 'changed the course of modern literature,' few will ever question either the work’s perennial appeal or the brilliance with which Kaplan has told its story.
To this new project, [Kaplan] brings equally honed skills as a historian, literary critic and biographer ... What she learns about him is fascinating, and how she writes about parallels between him and Camus is a lovely example of her own imaginative powers and stylish prose. Not all of the details in this book about a book are equally gripping, but Ms. Kaplan mostly keeps momentum by adhering to her plan to write about Camus 'as though I were looking over his shoulder.' Reading The Stranger is a bracing but somewhat bloodless experience. Ms. Kaplan has hung warm flesh on its steely bones.
Though its prose is more graceful and its erudition less ponderous, it is the grandchild of John Livingston Lowes’s 1927 The Road to Xanadu (1927), a 972-page inquest into the literary sources and personal circumstances that gave birth to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 'Kubla Khan' ... Thoroughly, cogently, Looking for The Stranger traces the birth of a literary classic.
What does immediately strike one about Looking for 'The Stranger’ is the enormous research that produced it, from remote archives and elaborate interviews, no page left unturned, no possible voice unheard. This is particularly impressive because the novel not only underwent much rewriting, but also endured a complicated publishing history resembling a combined marathon run and hurdle race ... Without neglecting other things, Kaplan concentrates on The Stranger and dwells on Camus’s adherence to and emulation of American novels by Faulkner and Hemingway and especially James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice.