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2.6 out of 5 stars
2.6 out of 5 stars
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on 28 September 2014
The first part is insightful and emotionally charged, the rest a little tiresome.
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on 14 June 2016
This is a brilliant book. It is the story of absolute grief. Like a spinning compass the narrative buffets about with the personal musings of a divorce and the private catastrophe left in its wake. It reads like a stream of consciousness bouncing here and there in a melody of suffering and soul searching. It is poetic. I loved it. A real privilege to read
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on 25 February 2012
Rachel Cusk is a good writer. However, I am afraid I was disappointed by this book which I finished today. As someone divorced with children I had hoped to read the insights one finds in her meatier earlier Life's Work - on Becoming a Mother. I was disappointed.

First it is far too short. It did not feel like value for money.

Secondly it felt rushed as if she needed the money (due to the divorce), did not have much time as she was wasting money and time she did not have on pointless therapy and so had thrown together some random musings interspersed with a lot of Greek myth tales which did not then hang well together. None of the details one might really want about the whys and wherefores of her divorce were there presumably on grounds of privacy.

All those who want fairness for men and women would be deeply unhappy with a woman who has had a relationship where a father is fully engaged as a carer of the children and is them somehow to be supplanted, simply because there is a divorce or even if not supplanted that a fair division is resented. We need to think about how we can give, not what we can take in life and that giving might involve letting our children have less of us. We all accept when we earn more than our men that that means we pay out to them on divorce (many many of us have done it) and that a maintenance of the status quo as regards relationships with the children follows in consequence and we celebrate that (although Ms Cusk appears not to do so).

One also is depressingly reminded that the career of a writer in effect means not much money and the consequences of that.

if the length had been about 5 times as long, the book had dared to move more into the realm of what had happened and dropped the Greek myth parts it could have worked.

May be there could be another book (of 5 times the length of this) about the subsequent dating phase. Let no one suggest Ms Cusk does not write well. She certainly does.
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on 30 April 2013
Like one or two other reviewers, I am at a loss to understand the aggressive reception given to this book - not only from Amazon reviewers, of course, but from the likes of The Guardian and the London Review of Books. There was even, I noticed, some kind of counter-feminist attempt to whip up sympathy for Rachel Cusk's much maligned ex-husband in the pages of the Telegraph. One problem with this criticism is that, for one thing, her husband is not much maligned; he is rarely mentioned, and when he is it is not in the terms claimed for the book by its commentators. She does not, for example, "complain" that he no longer cooks for their daughters, now that he is living apart, as one review claimed; she mourns the fact that he has lost interest in cooking, clearly seeing it as part of a greater loss. Elsewhere there is a beautiful passage when she feels a moment of liberation and says that she wishes she could "conscript [her ex-husband] into my own escape and re-encounter him there, in non-marriage, both of us free". It is almost as if, by drawing attention to something that is not there, critics of the book have been deliberately missing the point.

There is a moment early on, it is true, when Rachel Cusk loses focus, when she is discussing the financial arrangements around their separation and quotes the solicitor as saying that her husband "knew what he was doing". Quoting the observations of third parties in those situations is a dangerous thing to do. I remember someone saying to me, after I separated from my wife, that it was "good that you were unfaithful to her because she was so possessive". These are the kinds of unbalanced viewpoints that third parties can give, and this is where objectivity slips.

But only a perverse and wilful reading of the book could produce the many distortions presented as opinions. I admit to being suspicious of the motives of those who take such a negative view of it. My guess is that they feel threatened by the discussion of feelings that are not sanitised, trivialised or psychologised, but are given in all their physical rawness. Rachel Cusk was even criticised for mentioning the fact that she couldn't eat and had lost weight. I recognise in this the meaningless macho response, which may or may not be something to do with being English, that instead of talking about these things we should keep a stiff upper lip and muddle through. For all that the modern world pays lip service to emotional literacy, this is still a default setting for many.

At the centre of this reaction is a failure to understand the nature of sharing, which possibly comes from living in a culture when emotional exhibitionism is completely normal, although it the results are usually edited by someone like Endemol. People have hysterics on television and we laugh at them, despise them and feel vaguely sullied by the experience - and then we do it all over again the following night. This has nothing to do with sharing; it is a form of escapism, a way of maintaining a fantasy world in which "they" are emotional circus animals and "we" are perfectly rational. We have got used to phoning up to have these freaks evicted from their fake house, but we can't do this with a memoir, and the reviewers of this book sound a little frustrated on that score.

Hence the contradictory criticisms that Rachel Cusk has not spilled the beans on exactly what went wrong with her marriage and that she has been too honest, or too open or exposing. Well, it's not a book for the momentarily curious, with their insatiable hunger for gossip - that is true. I'm not sure how it would help the reader to have a breakdown of the breakdown. In my experience, the lead up to that kind of separation lacks clarity and is not easily explained, in any case. It is also true that the first chapter, which delves into the gender political causes behind the split, is by far the most obscure, and while it has an intellectual brilliance I was left uncertain as to whether she had said what she meant to say. Where the book is strongest is in bearing out those feelings of loss of prestige or status, of connection to a common reality, of continuity, which I for one recognise instantly. I also liked, a lot, the book's frequent prickliness, especially the passage worthy of D.H. Lawrence where she goes from feeling "irritated" by the sight of families to saying, "I blame Christianity".

Those who have complained about the irrelevance of Rachel Cusk's retelling of Greek myths have missed her stating explicitly on several occasions what value she finds in them. It doesn't always work, but when it does I find her search for some kind of context or framework to experience very engaging and realistic. She is not, as she points out, entirely English, and doesn't share our antipathy to philosophy - or to analysis of any kind - a difference that certainly marks her out. I remember when I first read Rachel Cusk being amazed, really, to discover a writer who was interested in ideas, had a passionate connection to the natural world and a black humour that cut against it - and who expected the reader to do some of the work. This is a book for people who don't like to be spoon fed.
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on 8 May 2012
Thank you Racheal for writing this book. You and I are at oposite ends of the table in a flat world, but in a more enlightened circular world we could be standing side by side, the leaver and the left. I almost didn't read the book when I read the other reviews, so glad I gave it a chance.
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on 28 February 2012
This book should never have been published, or should have been edited ruthlessly. It read like a first draft rather than a carefully crafted book. It belongs in the realms of private diary entries, trying to make sense of an unhappy life experience. It is banal, self-justifying and sketchy. It never transcends the personal to have a more universal meaning. I found it disappointing.
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on 29 May 2012
Because "wonderful" it is not.In fact I read the book without reading the reviews on these pages, having bought it on the strength of it's review in the Telegraph.The writing itself is sometimes good - but nowhere great ( I hadn't yet read anything else by this author, and now probably won't) however the execution is quite simply atrocious. The last part is completely detached from the rest of the story - though it certainly lets you know more about the author that she may have wished.I understand that it is sometimes necessary for a writer ( or anyone for that matter ) to consign thoughts to paper in order to make sense of them , but to publish this egocentric drivel ? How did this get past her editor ? - I can only think that the $$$ signs were there.Do yourself a favour and read something else.
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on 3 November 2012
I just love Rachel Cusk. I envy the way she strings words together. It is like she is at one with the language. Her powers of description are phenomenal. Maybe that is why I finished this book feeling so exhausted. She conveyed her 'aftermath' so convincingly that it stung to read it, and it was so personal that it felt like I was invading. She does feel free to write controversially and openly about so many things- motherhood being the obvious topic to start with- but might she have gone too far this time? There are so many others involved- what about them and the sanctity of their aftermath? What about her family? What about her kids? What about her ex-husband? It feels like published therapy. And yes, its great she has 'moved on' but I didn't sense any lightness as a consequence, just a heavy foreboding. A very sad little book.
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on 25 February 2012
Loquacious, banal and immature, this memoir reveals it's author as surprisingly lacking in awareness and empathy. Whilst there are some nicely turned phrases this book needs a serious edit to remove the dreadful meandering expanse of her pseudo intellectual posturing. This text contributes little to debates on divorce and feminisim, in fact it's really rather astonishing to read the middle-aged author's tardy and tedious feminist revelations - revelations that would, I venture, strike most women, most adults as the indulged musings of a spoilt little girl.

Read this if you enjoy your domestic dramas served dry with a large helping of self-obsessed passive-aggression. I just wish I could have my time and money back...
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on 16 June 2014
Rachel Cusk's publishers did her no favours, accepting this book in this form. Nothing should be more interesting than the collapse of someone else's love and hopes, but this book is a mess. And boring to boot. I got the feeling that she had stuffed a lot of the mythological stuff in simply to increase the word count. (It certainly doesn't illuminate anything she's telling us about her own situation.) And she will not thank her readers for knowing what we now do about her when she finally realises how poorly she comes out of the account. At least her husband and children should benefit - from the readers' sympathy!
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