19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Elegant and accomplished - but I didn't enjoy reading it
, 24 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Bradshaw Variations (Hardcover)
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Cusk has won numerous awards but while I thought this was an elegant and accomplished novel, it was one which I personally didn't enjoy reading. More or less plotless it explores the failed expectations and emotionless emptiness of the very middle-class Bradshaw family. The petty power struggles between husbands and wives are depicted in a narrative that switches between the various members of the Bradshaws, and the book itself is constructed from the accumulation of little points of life.
Everyone in this world is effectively isolated, living in their own head and disconnected from the world around them. Cusk's vision is one where people are nearly all thought, emotionless and passionless. At one point someone tells the story of a man stabbed in the street and how passers by call an ambulance but no-one speaks to the victim himself who might be dying, and only Leo Bradshaw is shocked by this, only he can even envisage an alternative, an actual moment of human communication.
Overall this is a very literary novel that I admired but didn't like: it depicts the bleakness of modern middle-class existence and the essential disconnectedness of human relations, but fundamentally I disagree with this vision of life. The writing style is elegant and fastidious but always self-consciously literary: similes and metaphors sometimes felt over-stretched to me, and deliberately insert themselves between text and reader so that we are never allowed to forget that this is constructed fiction we are reading. This reminded me of Hilary Mantel, undoubtedly intelligent yet also very cold and detached. I've given this 4* because I think it achieves what the author intended but it isn't a novel I liked.
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