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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars intriguing
I have read all of Cusk's previous work, and I must preface this review by admitting that I am a fan. Except for Saving Agnes, I have found all her novels and short stories to be mesmerizing. Two particular favorites were The Temporary and The Country Life. I would say this book is a departure, but it has been my experience that every new work by Cusk is a departure. That...
Published on 22 Aug 2003 by Laura

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A struggle
I have read other books by Rachel Cusk and generally enjoyed them, but not this one. The book is a sequence of stories, connected by the mention of a lawyer who is acquainted with some of the characters in each story. I didn't warm to any of the characters nor did I find them believable. In fact, I didn't care about them at all and I found the whole book a bit of an...
Published on 8 Sep 2010 by FaffingAbout


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars intriguing, 22 Aug 2003
By 
Laura (Washington D.C.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Hardcover)
I have read all of Cusk's previous work, and I must preface this review by admitting that I am a fan. Except for Saving Agnes, I have found all her novels and short stories to be mesmerizing. Two particular favorites were The Temporary and The Country Life. I would say this book is a departure, but it has been my experience that every new work by Cusk is a departure. That is why she is so readable: she will constantly surprise you with each effort. I don't know if "The Lucky Ones" will be ranked among my favorites, but I wouldn't have missed it. For the masterpiece that is the chapter entitled "Mrs. Daley's Daughter", it is not to be missed. Mrs. Daley is an instantly recognizable monster, who serves herself up to the reader with chilling self-justification. The final section was also very moving, and drew me in completely, although I felt the storyline blundered slightly into both sentimentality and shock/horror in the final pages. (it sounds impossible to have both, but read it and you will see what I mean). But whatever you might say about this book, you could never call it predictable or mundane. It is like all of Rachel Cusk's work: it pulls back the curtain on things we could only guess at before. Her psychological insights are always worth the cost of her books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A struggle, 8 Sep 2010
This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Paperback)
I have read other books by Rachel Cusk and generally enjoyed them, but not this one. The book is a sequence of stories, connected by the mention of a lawyer who is acquainted with some of the characters in each story. I didn't warm to any of the characters nor did I find them believable. In fact, I didn't care about them at all and I found the whole book a bit of an ordeal. Another reviewer suggests that Ms Cusk used this book to practise her literary style, and I have to say I agree with this.

I almost gave up on the book when I read the line 'I felt I had failed to secure the definitive territories of my family existence' - this supposedly the thoughts of a child. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

It is terribly difficult to read a book that is so littered with prose that tries so hard to be impressive and lyrical. It came as a relief towards the end of the book to read a page or two that had relatively normal dialogue. The author finds it hard to describe something without adding an 'as if...' or an 'as though ..' clause. The description might be thought-provoking in isolation but with often several examples on one page, it just becomes tedious.

Rachel Cusk tends to concentrate on detailing the thoughts and lives of ordinary people - this is what I generally enjoy about her writing. I like the way she picks out the real motives behind what people do, the bitter little transactions that go on in all our lives. But there has to be sympathy and compassion, the reader needs to feel some connection with the characters - in this book I didn't. Perhaps this was down to my irritation with the writing style, but I think mainly it was because I don't think the author felt any connection with her characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fulfilling Read in every way, 4 Nov 2012
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This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Paperback)
This is a well-crafted piece of work from a very talented writer. Rachel Cusk knows a thing or two about women, and their "self-referenced tapestries", their lives as mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives. She also understands very well what it means to be a parent, and how children change our lives in ways that are impossible to predict. She fully succeeds in showing us the intricate dynamics of human relationships in families, in friendship, at work.

This book takes you to a hidden world behind closed doors, in quiet villages, or busy towns, to an ocean of deceptively naive conversations, thoughts and events that shape the characters' psychic worlds.

The prose is a delight in itself, full of witty observations combined with a dose of lyric language that goes straight to the point.

I would give ten stars to the book if I could. I haven't enjoyed a book so thoroughly in a very long time. I fully recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and affecting, 23 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Paperback)
I think Rachel Cusk is a fabulous writer and The Lucky Ones is one of my favourites amongst her work. More like a series of short stories than a novel, each one is beautifully crafted. She creates the most realistic and recognisable characters and writes with seemingly effortless originality in terms of language. She writes sentences and creates pictures that are, I think, often quite breathtaking in their ability to penetrate and impact. She makes me wince, laugh, cry and nod. It feels like a privilege to read what she has written sometimes - her bravery and honesty are rare and precious and she makes you think as well as feel - whilst you're reading and long after.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was won over, 1 Nov 2006
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This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Paperback)
The first story in The Lucky Ones left me ambivalent, but I'm very glad I continued, because the book became more compelling as it went on. The overlap between certain characters and events in the stories mean that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I agree with the reviewer who said that Mrs Daley's Daughter is a masterpiece. We all know women who cannot resist undermining their daughters when their daughters have babies, so Mrs Daley is utterly recognisable, but so well-drawn I could not only taste her resentment and control-freakery, but understand it and trace it right back to its roots. The final story is also excellent, and ties up loose threads from earlier episodes. This is the first of Cusk's books I've read, and on the strength of it I will definitely be reading more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Observations of the Claustrophobia of Families, 18 Oct 2013
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Paperback)
There's a 19th-century Italian aria that begins 'to be a mother is to be in hell'. This might be a fitting epitaph for Rachel Cusk's brilliantly written but extremely gloomy set of interlinked short stories, all of which deal with failures of communication of some kind - between parents and children, between partners/husbands and wives and between friends. In the first short story, Kirsty, imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, gives birth in jail, aware that the illness of her lawyer and the inefficiency of his assistant who has taken over the case are likely to lead to her losing her daughter. The second story takes the lawyer's assistant, Jane, as one of the characters, and is set in a luxury ski resort, where a group of friends are hoping to enjoy a winter holiday. In fact, one couple are at odds because the wife has lost interest in sex and only cares about her children, in the other couple, Thomas (Jane's husband) is lusting after the single girl on the trip, Josephine, and Martin, the sixth member of the party, is desperately worried about his wife's post-natal depression. The third story is told by the sister of Lucy, one of the women on the ski-ing trip, and deals with her failure to communicate properly with her partner Robert over both marriage and children, and her longing to return to the securities of childhood. But childhood is proved not to be secure at all in the creepy fourth story, 'Mrs Daley's Daughter', about a control-freak suburban matron, whose daughter (Josephine from story 2) returns home after the birth of her first baby, suffering from post-natal depression. As Josephine's condition worsens, dark secrets from the past about Mrs Daley's horrific behaviour to her husband and daughter are revealed. The final story is about a dysfunctional couple who live in the same commuter village as Mrs Daley, and about the wife Vanessa's friendship with journalist Serena Porter and her husband Victor, a terminally-ill lawyer (who proves to be Kirsty's lawyer from Story One, thus meaning the novel comes full circle). The story, which details Vanessa and her husband Colin's gradual dissolution as a couple, and builds to a startling climax, is bleak in the extreme, with only a slight glimmer of hope in the final pages.

These are profoundly melancholy stories. None of the characters ever expresses joy, finds consolation for their misery in their relationships in other interests (music, books, nature, art, sport) or - with the possible exception of Josephine and Roger at the end of Story 4 - finds any kind of attractive solution to their problems. Lack of communication is a big thing with Cusk, and certainly, with a few odd exceptions, such as Vanessa in her brief chats with Victor, the characters don't really communicate - they are locked in 'the prison of the self'. Cusk seems at times almost to take pleasure in heaping misery after misery on her characters - for example, I felt in the final story that the description of Vanessa buying her husband a dog then taking it 'to the dog pound' after Colin complained about the mess is made was going too far. And oddly for a writer who's been a determined career woman, Cusk has very few female characters (bar the journalist Serena) who seem to have a career that they enjoy - the heroines of these novels have either given up everything for their husbands and children, or are in jobs purely to earn money, like the repulsive Jane. Not a cheerful read then, and one can't help feeling the book as a whole offers a slightly skewed vision of marriage and motherhood. On the other hand, Cusk has some wonderful powers of observation (Serena, who uses other people's lives as inspirations for her column, is a brilliant creation, as is the chilling, cold and utterly horrible Mrs Daley), creates a fantastic sense of atmosphere (Kirsty's experiences in prison are brilliant, as are the nameless narrator's descriptions of her meditative childhood in Story 3), is good on dialogue and can also describe places very beautifully (as with the frozen winter landscape in the final story). I came away from this, my first Rachel Cusk experience, thinking that she is a very gifted writer, but one that's perhaps allowed herself to get too obsessed with the bleak side of life at all times. Her endless angst can be a little repetitive. But nevertheless, the skill of her writing does make these stories rather rewarding reading.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars utterly dreary, 2 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Hardcover)
Having quite enjoyed A Life's Work and The Country Life, I thought this might be better given the hype over her making the Granta BOYB list. It isn't. In fact, it's one of the dreariest novels I've read for some time. Five characters are linked by knowing a human rights laweyer, and by parenthood - which they all seem to have found as depressing and unrewarding as Cusk herself. The characters range from a stupid young woman pregnant in prison to a woman journalist who moves to the country. None of the characters are remotely believeable, sympathethic or interesting.
I don't like being as negative as this about a novel, but Cusk is old enough and experienced enough by now to know better. She can write interestingly, but style alone isn't good enough for those who have forked out 15.99.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Lucky Ones, 3 Jan 2006
By 
Ann Wright (Nottingham, UK United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lucky Ones (Paperback)
Boring....
it was a very dreary read, characters unbelievable, situations ditto. Book did not flow. I think Rachel used this book as a vehicle to practise her literary style, which admittedly is good, but not good enough to sustain interest.
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The Lucky Ones
The Lucky Ones by Rachel Cusk (Hardcover - 7 April 2003)
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