The Country Life Paperback – 6 Oct 2011
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'A reminder of just what an impressive writer she's always been.' -- Independent >> 'The Country Life has a moral core, meticulously disguised as comedy. Cusk is a highly interesting, original writer and more unusually she is a joy to read.' -- Helen Dunmore, The Times >> 'Its mixture of P.G. Wodehouse, Cold Comfort Farm and Jane Austen is a pleasure to read.' -- Tibor Fischer, Sunday Express >> 'Cusk writes with the fastidiousness and delightful grace we have come to expect.' --Sue Gaisford, Independent on Sunday
'There are many moments of domestic hilarity around the pool and at the dinner table, and insights into the awkwardness of being alone in a strange place.' --Irish Times
Rachel Cusk's classic comic novel The Country Life, available for the first time in Faber editions.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
She arrives in the middle of a heatwave and indeed, over the next week makes extraordinarily heavy weather of everything she undertakes, from entering the village shop to getting dressed. Her every inept action leads to disaster; she cannot, it seems, wash up without causing a flood, walk across a carpet without leaving a trail, or pick up a bottle without it leaping from her hand.
Stock comic characters abound, from shrill upper-class women to taciturn inbred farm labourers and strange “creatures” with healing powers. Huge themes lurk in the woodshed, including incest, madness and infidelity. These are picked up, dallied with, then casually put down again.
Cusk’s prose style is something of a jungle, too – dense and overwritten.
Despite all this, the novel is funny, acute and compelling, drawing us into Stella’s buccolic misadventures and, the real subject of the book, her search for motivation and identity, but leaving us, ultimately, none the wiser.
Basically it's about a young woman called Stella who decides to drop everything and escape from her past in order to take up a job as au pair to a disabled boy, Martin. The novel is basically about her time there and how she deals with everything her new situation throws at her.
I found Stella's story immensely enjoyable. Cusk's style of writing is extremely elegant and sharp, I'm not surprised to hear that she was educated at Oxford University. Not only does Cusk make the reader just fall in love with Stella, but she also makes said reader fall about laughing. She is an extremely witty writer and we can all recognise a bit of ourselves in Stella, as well as finding the other characters somewhat familiar. Let's face it, who doesn't know a Caroline?
All the supporting characters, from Mr Trimmer, to Karen Miller, even dear Thomas, the gardner, are absolutely superb and just as interesting as Stella. However, the best portraits in the book are Pamela and Martin. You really do feel as if they actually exist, they are so true to life, and so real. Toby and Mr Madden also deserve a special mention.
Cusk is also very daring in the way she handles daring themes such as incest etc. She is obviously an extremely intelligent woman and I would say that this is her best work to date, her masterpiece. One to read in the summer.
The Country Life by Rachel Cusk presents several promises, but eventually seems to break most of them. When Stella Benson, a twenty-nine-year-old, leaves home suddenly to take up a private care assistant's job in darkest south England, it is clear that she is running away. From what we do learn later, but by then we perhaps care rather less about the circumstances.
From the start there was a problem with the book's point of view. Stella presents a first person narrative couched in a conventional past tense. Events - albeit from the past - unfold along a linear time frame, but despite her removed perspective, she apparently never reflects beyond the present she reports. Given Stella's character, this may be no more than an expression of her scattered immediacy, but that only becomes clear as we get to know her via her actions. This apparent contradiction of perspectives has to be ignored if the book is to work, but once overcome The Country Life is worth the effort.
Stella - to say the least - is not a very competent person. But then no-one else in this little southern village seems to have much about them. She becomes a live-in personal carer for Martin Madden, a disabled seventeen-year-old who lives with his rather dotty parents on their apparently luxurious farm. Stella has neither experience, nor presumably references, nor the pre-requisite driving licence. Her employers don't check anything, despite their reported bad experiences in the past. Thus Stella becomes part of a rather mad family called Madden.
Stella steadily learns more about the Maddens. They have their past, both collectively and individually. Pamela, a wiry, sun-tanned matriarch, is married to Piers.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Borrowed this book from the library, and loved it. Could happily read it again, so bought my own copy.Published 1 month ago by jinks
I actually bought this for someone else, but I have it on Kindle and it's probably the best book I've ever read.Published 18 months ago by M. Marsch
This is a truly badly written book and I should like to return it please. I cannot think how any editor passed it for publication. Slow, uninteresting and quite without pace. Read morePublished on 23 Dec. 2013 by Greatgran
This is pretty disappointing from Rachel Cusk. Her later novel, "The Temporary" is one of my favourite books but this is a missed opportunity. Read morePublished on 13 Jan. 2008 by Caterkiller
My initial thought about this book was that the prose was a little over-written and old fashioned - it reminded me a bit of Jane Eyre. However, a few pages in and I was hooked. Read morePublished on 6 Jan. 2008 by gerty guinea