A novelist's unflinching analysis of her failed marriage.
Cusk (The Bradshaw Variations, 2010, etc.) fixes an unnervingly steady gaze on the breakdown of her domestic life. “There was nothing left to dismantle,” she writes, “except the children, and that would require the intervention of science.” In her third memoir, the author brings together elements of a well-constructed novel—it’s compelling and even thrilling, despite the fact that the story is unsurprising and banal (man meets woman, and they create a family; family falls apart; man, woman and children grieve)—and its novelistic feel is a credit to Cusk's literary risk-taking. She doesn't tell her tale straight; instead, she weaves in figures from ancient Greek drama (Oedipus, Antigone, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra) and thickens the bare-bones plot with striking, elaborate turns of phrase and powerful images. The last and most unorthodox chapter is told, by Cusk, from the perspective of her au pair Sonia, a scared, scarred girl whom the author abruptly fired when her husband left (though she did provide her with another job). What is most startling about the Sonia chapter is not that the self-sufficient, Oxford-educated Cusk so convincingly inhabits the mind of an unskilled, young foreigner, but that she is willing to expose herself at her worst: cold, harsh, pitiless and even cruel to a woman far more vulnerable than she.
Bold, gripping, original and occasionally darkly funny.