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The Bradshaw Variations Paperback – 1 Apr 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571233619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571233618
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'At times I just wanted to punch the air in a frenzy of delighted recognition.' --Julie Myerson

'I enjoyed everything about this dazzling performance of a book ... which wants to know the truth about love, especially middle-aged, married love.' --Observer

'Rachel Cusk's writing is so beautiful that I would happily read her account of a trip to the shops on a rainy morning ... she tells me about myself (and herself), and a world that is deeply familiar, yet seldom pinpointed like this in modern fiction.' --Literary Review

Book Description

From award-winning novelist Rachel Cusk comes The Bradshaw Variations, an incisive and commercial contemporary family novel.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Epigone VINE VOICE on 17 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
To start a book with the line "What is art?" is quite a way of sticking your flag in the ground. Saying: 'I don't care if this sounds sophomoric - listen up.' Which is admirable, and besides, the question is really asked by a protagonist, and not the author, not really.

The issue is that the book tries to answer that question by wringing interest out of the sorts of things you would rather not hear about. The book is very eloquent (well - in fact - it xan be quite verbose) but it sort of feels like one of those half-hour mum-phone-monologues about the terrible things that are going on at the neighbour's place, although perhaps on a day where she is channelling the spirit of Virginia Woolf.

Despite a number of very evocative passages and a strong thread of ambition throughout the whole novel, I did find it a bit of a chore. I would hope to see another book by Cusk sometime soon though; I'd like to see her turn away from mundanity and try her hand at some full-on exuberance; I think she'd be good at it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laura T TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 April 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel follows the extended Bradshaw family - three brothers, their wives and children, and the Bradshaw parents - through the course of a single year, although the sense of time passing in this rather static narrative is not particularly clear. The book is composed of set-pieces - almost every chapter features another character in a different setting - and this is both its strength and its weakness.

I'd assumed from the title that the book would trace the contrasts and links between the different branches of the Bradshaw family, but in fact one set of characters - the middle brother, Thomas, his wife Tonie and their fragile daughter Alexa - get much more attention than the others, and often the focus in the other families is on the wives rather than their husbands, so clearly Rachel Cusk is not particularly interested in the effect of genetic inheritance and upbringing here. What works brilliantly are her observations of people and their interactions. The novel is very short, and often characters are presented in only a few lines or pages, but Cusk manages to pinion each personality exactly - from the youngest brother Leo's expedition to buy a coat, to the oldest brother Howard's wife Claudia's insistence on having a `studio' in her garden for her `work', which in fact she never enters.

However, despite Cusk's obvious talent, this is a very difficult novel to warm to. Her previous book, `Arlington Park', which I enjoyed very much, was similarly observational, but far more compulsive as the author illuminated the common predicaments of her five female characters. I didn't really feel any desire to read on here, as I sympathised with very few of the Bradshaws.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 April 2010
Format: Paperback
The Bradshaw Variations pursues an analogy with piano, but a better parallel would be with painting. With portraiture, or still life. Told in the present, it is a succession of commentaries on the everyday. It revolves around the extended Bradshaw family, three couples plus their children and elderly parents. Each and collectively, the characters follow their routines, tube-tested and analysed by Rachel Cusk in every detail.

A two-star rating is perhaps a little grudging. The Variations do contain the odd nugget. Yet many of its observations are either commonplace or, as one pauses, not that perceptive. `At times I just wanted to punch the air in a frenzy of delighted recognition,' says the critic's quote on the jacket. I didn't want to punch anything, except myself for having bought the book, after a while. Ms Cusk might have pursued the interesting premise that Thomas Bradshaw has decided to become a househusband, while his wife Tonie has returned to work. Thomas plays the piano. His sister-in-law complains she never has time to paint. Work, leisure, creativity, structure: Ms Cusk, as a writer, might have made interesting points about them, but the premise is not developed.

Yet the problem is not so much that the Variations' approach is not interesting, it is that they only stick to a single note. The ending is a cop-out, as if something racy somehow had to be found for the conclusion. Ms Cusk's style is agreeable, but the commentary runs out of breath. And what starts out as wistful ends up becoming dull. For Variations, this is not that varied.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'What is art? Thomas Bradshaw asks himself this question frequently.'

Thomas has time to think, time to learn to play the piano now that his wife has taken on a full time job and he has become a house husband. Rachel Cusk continues her exploration of middleclass misery and angst in this novel. Each section changes the point of view - probably a few too many times in terms of real character development. Yes, it adds insight to see Tonie's mother's view of Tonie and her family, but not if that character is herself reduced to a cipher.

The novel is 250 pages or so and it isn't until pages 200 that the pace picks up and at that point I was fully engaged, though underwhelmed ultimately by the ending. There is humour - Claudia is a funny creation, a martyr to her family, who never gets to her studio to create her art, but the same joke is repeated too many times. There is some good dialogue, for example when Tonie and Janine have their morning coffee and if there were more of that then the book would have caused me to care more about the characters. Rachel Cusk is often at her best when she marries her sharp observation with her more caustic wit - in this novel I felt the lack of both.

Rachel Cusk can write very well but The Bradshaw Variations is a very consciously 'written' book. The images can be arresting - but hardly seem effortless and seem to be at the expense of any tension or plot.
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