Stella Benson, eager to change her life, answers a classified ad and arrives in a tiny Sussex village that's home to a family slightly larger than life. Stella's hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them--as au pair to their irascible son Martin--is undeniably low. What drove her to leave home, job, and life in London for such rural ignominy? Why has she severed all ties with her family? Why is she so reluctant to discuss her past? And who, exactly, is Edward?
The Country Life is a rich and subtle novel about embarrassment, awkwardness, and being alone; about families, or the lack of them; and about love in some peculiar guises. Rachel Cusk, widely acclaimed in England, makes her American debut with an utterly charming, captivating novel about one young woman's adventures in self-discovery.
Rachel Cusk's debut, Saving Agnes, won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel in 1993. She lives in London.
A CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR BEST BOOK OF 2009
A BOOKLIST BEST BOOK OF 2009
A GLOBE AND MAIL BEST BOOK OF 2009
WINNER OF THE PEN USA AWARD FOR FICTION
A fiercely funny and touching debut novel about a young girl trying to find out the truth behind her sister's death
I have a sister who died. Did I tell you this already? I did but you don't remember, you didn't understand the code . . . She died a year ago, but in my mind sometimes it's five minutes. In the morning sometimes it hasn't even happened yet. For a second I'm confused, but then it all comes back. It happens again.
Fear doesn't come naturally to Mathilda Savitch. She prefers to look right at the things nobody else can bring themselves to mention: for example, the fact that her beloved older sister is dead, pushed in front of a train by a man still on the loose. Her grief-stricken parents have basically been sleepwalking ever since, and it is Mathilda's sworn mission to shock them back to life. Her strategy? Being bad.
Mathilda decides she's going to figure out what lies behind the catastrophe. She starts sleuthing through her sister's most secret possessions—e-mails, clothes, notebooks, whatever her determination and craftiness can ferret out. More troubling, she begins to apply some of her older sister's magical charisma and powers of seduction to the unraveling situations around her. In a storyline that thrums with hints of ancient myth, Mathilda has to risk a great deal—in fact, has to leave behind everything she loves—in order to discover the truth.
Mathilda Savitch bursts with unforgettably imagined details: impossible crushes, devastating humiliations, the way you can hate and love your family at the same moment, the times when you and your best friend are so weak with laughter that you can't breathe. Startling, funny, touching, odd, truthful, page-turning, and, in the end, heartbreaking, Mathilda Savitch is an extraordinary debut. Once you make the acquaintance of Mathilda Savitch, you will never forget her.
Chronically confused, terminally middle class, hopelessly romantic, Agnes Day lives with her two best friends in the London suburbs and works at an obscure trade magazine. Life and love seem to go on without her. But she gives a convincing performance that everything is alright--that is, until she learns that her roommates and her boyfriend are keeping secrets from her, and that her boss is quitting and leaving her in charge. In great despair, she decides to make it her business to set things straight.
Rachel Cusk explores the business of growing up and moving on with a deftly comic, surprisingly moving touch, confirming her reputation as one of England's smartest and most entertaining young writers.
Set over the course of a single rainy day, the novel moves from one household to another, and through the passing hours conducts a deep examination of its characters' lives: of Juliet, enraged at the victory of men over women in family life; of Amanda, warding off thoughts of death with obsessive housework; of Solly, who confronts her own buried femininity in the person of her Italian lodger; of Maisie, despairing at the inevitability with which beauty is destroyed; and of Christine, whose troubled, hilarious spirit presides over Arlington Park and the way of life it represents.
Darkly comic, deeply affecting, and wise, Arlington Park is a page-turning imagining of the extraordinary inner nature of ordinary life, by one of Britain's most exciting young novelists.
An unflinching chronicle of Cusk's own recent separation and the upheaval that followed—"a jigsaw dismantled"—it is also a vivid study of divorce's complex place in our society. "Aftermath" originally signified a second harvest, and in this book, unlike any other written on the subject, Cusk discovers opportunity as well as pain. With candor as fearless as it is affecting, Rachel Cusk maps a transformative chapter of her life with an acuity and wit that will help us understand our own.