COVENTRY by Rachel Cusk
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COVENTRY

Essays
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A striking collection of essays from the acclaimed British novelist.

In three thematically organized sections, Cusk, a winner of the Whitbread and Somerset Maugham Awards who is also renowned for her Outline trilogy (Kudos, 2018, etc.), brilliantly delves into expansive realms of personal memoir and social and literary criticism. In the titular essay, the author reflects on her odd, sometimes-tense relationship with her parents, who, for unaccountable reasons, will periodically stop speaking to her—a phenomenon that in England is referred to as “being sent to Coventry.” Cusk then expands her account of this experience to address further complex and sometimes strained aspects of her domestic life. Readers of the author’s first-person fiction will be pleased with the acutely observant narrative voice that characterizes these introspective meditations on family, motherhood, marriage, and community. “Part of the restlessness and anxiety I feel at home has, I realize, to do with time: I am forever waiting, as though home is a provisional situation that at some point will end,” she writes. “I am looking for that ending, that resolution, looking for it in domestic work as I look for the end of a novel by writing. At home I hardly ever sit down: the new sofa has nothing to fear from me.” In the section entitled “A Tragic Pastime,” Cusk deals with broader ideas of creative self-expression, gender politics, and the writing process. In the essay “Shakespeare’s Sisters,” the author sets Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as alternating touchstones for considering the identity and concept of women’s writing within a male-dominated culture. In the final section, Cusk offers fresh perspectives on Edith Wharton and D.H. Lawrence and argues for the importance of Françoise Sagan, Olivia Manning, and Natalia Ginzburg. She also directs her discerning eye toward Kazuo Ishiguro and his novel Never Let Me Go and an even sharper edge to her withering assessment of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.

An eloquent and engrossing selection of nonfiction writing that will enhance Cusk’s stature in contemporary literature.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-374-12677-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2019




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