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on 1 November 2017
Worth reading her other books
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on 9 May 2012
I love the way Rachel Cusk writes - she manages to sketch so perfectly all those little moments that mostly remain unsaid and unseen and yet define your day. With so many mothers out there i find it strange that i have not stumbled across more books that write about the state of motherhood as truthfully and seriously as this - far too many treat the subject either with general hilarity or with saintly preciousness. One reviewer seems disappointed with the fact that a feminist is still writing about domestic issues. Well, given that becoming a mother often ends up being one of the most defining aspects of a woman's life, i can;t think of a more important topic to write about. Was it Anais Nin who said that men give up everything for their art and women give up everything for their children? Writers have dissected the depressing aspects of all other kinds of relationships, why not those of becoming a parent? And while it is only an angle, given how common postnatal depression is, and indeed depression in general, i think it is an important one to explore. I also couldn't help wondering if this is just the English experience of motherhood as the bleakness of the English landscape seems to permeate all her books - perhaps people who live in countries full of sunshine and close extended families wouldn;t be able to relate at all..! Whatever, I think Cusk is truly gifted and would hate to invite her to dinner - scarily perceptive and observant.
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on 23 December 2007
Having read the reviews (both on this site, on the book cover and in the press) I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately it did not live up to the hype. Yes, it's well written, and yes it's a comment on how we live now. However, it's such a 'glass half empty' book that it feels like a long slog to the end. If you want to read about a bunch of privileged women complaining bitterly about their lives then perhaps this book is for you. For me, it covers no new territory and has a serious sense of humour failure. What it does achieve, however, is to make you feel very glad that you are not in the well-heeled shoes of the women of Arlington Park.
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on 1 December 2014
This book left me complete cold. I couldn't engage with any of the characters and it could come to an end too soon. Truly awful.
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on 3 January 2016
had great hopes. A poor book, padded with adjectival descriptions instead of substance. V disappointed
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 June 2007
It all started very promisingly - the writing was good, descriptive and with a nice turn of phrase. For the first fifth, I was convinced I was going to love the whole book. Unfortunately, it went downhill from then on and by the end I was very glad to have finished.

'Arlington Park' details the minutae of the lives of five well to do suburban housewives. Comparisons with the popular American TV show 'Desperate Housewives' are not particularly accurate - the latter (whether you like it or not) is funny and glamourous, with some pretty exciting/dramatic (though far fetched) storylines. 'Arlington Park' is/has none of these things.

Firstly, there was a lack of anything resembling a plot. Nothing much happened at all - maybe that was the point of the story, but it was dull nonetheless. As a catologue of the utter tedium of everyday life as a suburban housewife, it was doubtlessly accurate, but surely the point of reading is to escape from the dull mundanity of everyday life. At least, it is for me. If it is for you, I wouldn't recommend this book.

There seemed to be very little point or message to the story - except that being a housewife is dull and perhaps that being female is no fun - not exactly original. It might have been saved, however, if the characters had been engaging and likeable. But they weren't - even with 5 of them, I couldn't empathise with any of them (and I am female, by the way). They were dull, annoying and shallow, never contented despite their comfortable existences, consumed with dislike for their children.

It was a story utterly lacking humour or drama - lacking sparkle. It was a real drag to read and I almost gave up altogther. There was very little dialogue, just long sections of introspection - not even interesting introspection. These were generally quite repetitive and I found myself skipping over them. There was also a section centred on one character - Solly - which seemed entirely out of place and didn't fit in at all with the rest of the book, which had some continuity by being set in one day with the characters coming together for a dinner party at the end. It was like a separate short story (on a similar theme) had been inserted into the middle of the novel, and increased the sense of there being no real purpose in the story.

There is no doubt that Cusk is a good writer and could produce something really special if she just created some better characters and gave them some sort of plot to work with. Perhaps this story would be enjoyed more by women who are/have been housewives and could identify more with the characters, but I have my doubts even then. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to men.

On the whole very disappointing.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 June 2012
The start to this novel is brilliantly evocative describing the rain over a night time city: 'In their sleep they heard it, people lying in their beds: the thunderous noise of the water...it made them feel somehow observed, as if a dark audience had assembled outside and were looking in through the windows, clapping their hands.'
And then Cusk takes us through a day in the life of this suburb through the eyes of various middle-class young mums; the snapshots of each show an unremitting dissatisfaction with their husbands and children and their place in a man's world.
I LOVED Cusk's prose but started to get fed up with these moany privileged women!
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on 24 April 2010
I was given this book by my brother's girlfriend and having heard good things about Cusk was intrigued as to how it would pan out.

As other reviewers here have written, it was a distinctly average book, with very average boring and predictable characters. I could see how Cusk could maybe have been cocking a snook at posh wife/husband combo in the first chapter and the materialistic Christine in the shopping mall but I just didn't see how they really connected and just when Cusk developed a character (the Japanese houseguest or the Italian student houseguest) enough to draw your interest in, then it was abruptly dragged from under your feet afterwards. I really didn't see the point of this book, it illustrated suburbia all too well and was well written in parts but I really found it extremely boring and something I would not recommend. I am even thinking twice before donating it to a friend!
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on 29 December 2009
A fairly furious and dark polemic against marriage, motherhood, men women and children. Cusk conveys the frustration and bitterness of middle class surburbian life well, sometimes extremely well, but there's little to leaven the bleakness of the shallow existences of her characters. Even the character (male) who is a brilliant teacher to no-hoper boys is ridiculous. If i compare this feminist leaning novel with, for example, any of Marge Piercy's oeuvre Braided Lives (sadly I believe out of print), Woman on the Edge of Time (A Women's Press classic), there is a depth, rounded characterisations and sympathy/understanding in French and Piercy which Cusk misses.

Cusk is a good descriptive writer - though this sometimes seems very self-consciously 'literary', for example the 'day in the life' chapter about the park, but when a writer seems to be showing off her fine turn of phrase and pictorial ability, this is the display of fine writing, rather than the inhabiting of it.

She's clearly an intelligent, insightful and perceptive writer, but stands at too much of a remove from the bleak and messy humanity she writes about.

For a very very different habitation of female existential despair Cusk makes me want to return to the wonderful, intelligent and deeply felt The Bell Jar
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on 8 January 2008
Hmmm. I sped through Arlington Park in two sittings, but my opinion is divided.

First off, I'm not a mother, so I have no idea how accurate the portrayals of motherhood are. For what it's worth, though, I can see my own mother in one or two of the characters, so I'm assuming it is pretty close to the bone.

This is the first book I've read by Rachel Cusk, though she's a name I've been aware of for some time. If I'm perfectly honest, the reason I bought this book in the first place is because I needed a third to make up a 3 for 2 offer, and vaguely recognised her name. And the cover is pretty. Not the most intelligent reason to buy a book but hey ho. Sometimes I really am that shallow.

Rachel Cusk is a very good writer. She has an elegant turn of phrase, she has an eye for minute detail, and her prose is riddled with both anger and the futile nature of suburban domesticity and empathy with her exquisitely detailed characters. However, I couldn't help feeling like the unrelenting bleakness of Arlington Park was just a little too much. By the end of this fairly short book (240 pages) I felt somewhat like I had been walloped over the head with "motherhood is crap, motherhood is crap, motherhood is crap, motherhood is crap. and so are husbands." Perhaps this is my rose-tinted, no-children, view, but surely it can't all be that bad. There was no let up, there was no chink of light through the (carefully selected) curtains.

Rabid feminist as I am, this came across at times as a slightly clumsy feminist manifesto, that - conversely - gives even more grist to the mill of those who say that women only write about domestic matters.

I honestly think that Rachel Cusk is a massively talented writer, I just wish it had been a little more of a balanced story.
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