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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bradshaw Variations
Nothing much happens overtly in this story of a family, but there is lots going on under the surface. The three Bradshaw brothers are shown in their own homes interacting with their families - Thomas, Howard and Leo. The book concentrates on Thomas, Antonia and their daughter Alexa, though the reader does also get glimpses into the lives of the others. Thomas has taken a...
Published on 22 Sept. 2009 by Damaskcat

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, underwhelming
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...
Published on 17 Dec. 2009 by Epigone

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caviar, not chips, 23 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Bradshaw Variations (Paperback)
I love how Rachel Cusk dives straight under the surface of life, and nowhere more so than in this novel, a subtle examination of what it's like to be English and middle class. She creates just enough distance between character and reader that we feel a little like observers from outer space, examining creatures we rather like but are not entirely sure we understand. Full of delicious details that transcend the events and dilemmas of a fairly bourgeois family set up - everything feels sharper, more crystalline, than in real life.

There's some painful truths buried in these pages: "Claudia remembers, when Lottie was born, the prospect of self-sacrifice coming into view like a landscape seen from an approaching train; she remembers the steady unfolding of it, a place she had never seen before in her life, and herself inescapably bound for it; and then after a while the realisation, pieced together from numerous clues, that this was where her mother had lived all along."

This isn't an action novel. It most assuredly puts character, description and observation firmly above plot, but offers diligent readers all the rewards of a voyeur, as Cusk's inquisitive, almost inappropriately intimate, insights offer a rare window into the inner workings of other people's lives - and often our own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Family fugues, 3 Oct. 2009
By 
T. Bently "tbently" (Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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I read this book first with a sense of delight and then a growing feeling of alarm. Cusk writes beautifully, and the initial description of the Bradshaw family waking up is sublime. The author commpares their house to a kind of musical instrument, with Thomas Bradshaw the bass in the kitchen and his daughter and wife sounding the shriller notes in their bedrooms in the upper reaches of the building.

However, it began to dawn on me that the book would consist of nothing else besides description. Each page seems to contain two or three similes: people are compared to mists, mohagany and butterflies pinned in a Victorian display case. The list is endless. Each description is apt and perfectly thought-out but collectively they just clog up the narrative of the book.

The overall impression is of a David Lodge campus novel with all the humour sucked out. The book is crying out for more plot and more dialogue. I was really looking forward to the undoubtedly very intelligent Cusk revealing more about her characters: the annoyingly-spelt English lecturer Tonie who has just been promoted and the lodger Olga, but they never become much more than ciphers for the author to show off her wordiness. In short, this novel has too much head without much in the way of a beating heart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still hungry..., 25 Sept. 2009
By 
purplepadma (London) - See all my reviews
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I enjoyed "The Bradshaw Variations" but somehow it doesn't hit the spot, because the characters don't have enough space to develop properly. There are so many different voices and viewpoints from the wider Bradshaw family that it's hard to focus on the central narrative of Thomas Bradshaw and his wife Tonie. Thomas has given up his job to allow Tonie to become head of the English department at a lesser university, and (incomprehensibly, so far as their respective parents and siblings are concerned) Tonie now brings home the bacon while Thomas takes over the school run and experiments with piano lessons. In the course of the novel we also delve into the lives of Thomas' elder brother Howard and his wife Claudia, younger brother Leo and his (seemingly alcoholic) wife Susie, and dissatisfied elderly parents. I found it slightly frustrating to see almost as much of the ostensibly lesser characters as we do of Tonie and Thomas, as the result is that no-one gets the attention they deserve within what is, after all, a fairly slender volume (249 pages). I have therefore been left feeling unsure whether I really "know" any of the characters, and rather wishing that I did. But a pleasant enough read despite that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poised, clever - yet un-enjoyable, 4 Nov. 2009
By 
i.pod "down loading freak" (London) - See all my reviews
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Whilst I couldn't help but admire Cusk's accomplished writing skills; I found little to enjoy in this book. The characters are depressingly unhappy and hopeless and for me, all quite unlikable. Nothing really seemed to happen throughout the entire book; each page left me with a sense that there was no point in continuing. I appreciate that the reader may well be at fault here for choosing a book so unsuitable for them but aside from the undeniably elegant writing style; the overall experience wasn't a good one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 27 Oct. 2010
By 
Tim "Tim" (Hackney, London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Bradshaw Variations (Paperback)
Comparisons with Virginia Woolf are not appropriate.
i don't have a problem with the somewhat indulgent style of writing. But I do have a problem with he lack of a plot compounded by the absence of any characters that I could feel any emotional interest in.
Mrs Dalloway has no real plot - apart from fixing up the house for a party. But by the end of the book the reader feels a real connection with Mrs D.
In Bradshaw it was all a bit vague and out there. Not one of the characters engaged my sympathies. I didn't really care what happened to this bunch of self interested,limited, dull, middle class people. I suppose I should feel sympathy that they are trapped in this bubble, but isn't it the authors job to encourage me to feel that sympathy if that's what she wants.
'What is art?' is asked a couple of times. But no real attempt is made to answer the question.
There were some interesting insights into how peoples adult selves is subconciously defined by their upbringing and their relations with their parents. But these alone, in my opinion , are not enough to carry a novel.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Utterly tedious, 18 Jan. 2010
This book irritated me beyond measure; I didn't enjoy it, but finished it in the hope that something would gell towards the end. When I don't care about the characters and what happens to them, I know I'm reading a book that has no 'juice'. Plotless books I can deal with; it's okay to write muscular vignettes, but TBV got lost in its padding of trivial details. In short, I found the whole thing pointless and was dismayed that Cusk could have written something so bad - I wonder if she actually enjoyed writing it? It seemed ironic that the only 'character', the dog Skittle, died at the end, while the humans swam about helplessly in an introverted tide of ennui and disconnection. As bad as it gets, and I'm sorry to say that about Cusk, who can write well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent....in parts., 20 Oct. 2009
By 
Stromata (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is the first work of fiction that I have read by Rachel Cusk, but I have recently read 'The Last Summer' an account of time spent with her family in Italy, which I greatly enjoyed.

When I read the first chapter or so of 'The Bradshaw Variations' I must admit to thinking 'oh no, not another tale of middle-class angst', but I quickly became ensnared by the lives of the family around whom this story revolves.

I struggled with the first few chapters in part because of the language - Ms Cusk does tend to gild the lily on occassion. However subsequent chapters are less clunky, perhaps her editor has done a better job here.

Indeed , chapter fourteen, where a mother and father make a visit to the house of their adult daughter, her husband and child, contains the best writing I have read in contemporary fiction for years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Creative writing class, 24 Sept. 2009
By 
R. Lawson "clavedoc" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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I think perhaps Rachel Cusk has been taking creative writing classes. Each week she's written a piece about a family to exhibit her descriptive skills. I'm sure she got high marks for that. At the end of the year's classes she's then put all the pieces together in a book. There's lots of description there of the highest quality, but it doesn't really join together and there is no overall picture, story or concept that emerges. If anything it reads as a gossipy account of family life, a rather arty, intellectual and literary piece of curtain twitching. At times the descriptions engaged me, but more often I was bored, and although it's a slim novel I found myself struggling to finish.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars too self-interested, 25 Nov. 2009
By 
emma who reads a lot (London) - See all my reviews
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I really wanted to like this book, as I've read a number of good reviews of it. But I found the way it was written terribly difficult to like. Dialogue is practically absent during the first section, and instead there's just rather grim descriptions of some rather grim people, that are so lengthy and wordy I wanted to scream. I have to admit that I gave up before the end. Life is just too short to read about such unpleasant people. I did think, though, that Cusk was clearly trying to achieve a particular effect, and that I just didn't get it. Others may well feel differently, and the book is certainly a good and accurate description of middle-class family life in a certain area of quite posh London. I just didn't like it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written but depressing, 30 July 2010
By 
H. B. Hosegoood (Devon, England) - See all my reviews
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There is no doubt that Rachel Cusk writes very well but ultimately this book was not for me and it actually took me a concerted effort and several weeks to finish it. The style of writing in the present tense but in a passive way made me feel remote from the characters, rather as if the story was taking place behind a glass partition. Also all the characters had faintly depressing lives and often shallow characters, which may be realistic for their type - upper middle class - but didn't draw me in. I want to read something exciting, dramatic, funny, quirky or inspiring and this wasn't it.
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The Bradshaw Variations
The Bradshaw Variations by Rachel Cusk (Paperback - 1 April 2010)
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