All About Rachel Cusk

Can art both save and destroy us? Discover Rachel Cusk's works of "brilliant, insightful prose" (The Guardian) that continue to push the boundaries of form and genre.

Rachel Cusk is the author of the trilogy Outline, Transit, Kudos; the essay collection Coventry; the memoirs A Life's Work, The Last Supper and Aftermath; and several other novels: Saving Agnes (winner of the Whitbread Award), The Temporary, The Country Life (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award), The Lucky Ones, In the Fold, Arlington Park and The Bradshaw Variations. She was chosen as one of Granta's 2003 Best Young British Novelists. She has been shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize three times, most recently for Kudos.

"There's a certain point in life at which you realise it's no longer interesting that time goes forward – or rather, that its forward-going-ness has been the central plank of life's illusion, and that while you were waiting to see what was going to happen next, you were steadily being robbed of all you had. Language is the only thing capable of stopping the flow of time, because it exists in time, is made of time, yet it is eternal – or can be." (Second Place)

Saving Agnes (1993)

Agnes Day – sub-editor, suburbanite, failure extraordinaire – has discovered disconcerting gaps in her general understanding of the world. Terminally middle-class and incurably romantic, Agnes finds herself chronically confused by the most basic interactions. Life and love go on without her, but with a little façade she can pass herself off as a success. Beneath the fiction, however, the burden of truth becomes harder to bear.

The Temporary (1995)

Ralph Loman works in an unsatisfying job, for a free London newspaper, when Francine Snaith, a temporary secretary for a corporate finance firm, unexpectedly crosses his path at a party. Her beauty ignites a blaze of excitement in his troubled heart. But Francine is ravenous for attention, driven by a thirst for conquest, and when Ralph tries politely to extricate himself, he finds he is bound by chains of consequence from which it seems there is no escape.

The Country Life (1997)

Stella Benson sets off for Hilltop, a tiny Sussex village housing a family that is somewhat larger than life. Her hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them, as au pair to their irascible son Martin - is undeniably low. What could possibly have driven her to leave her home, job and life in London for such rural ignominy? Why has she severed all contact with her parents? Why is she so reluctant to talk about her past?

A Life's Work (2001)

A Life's Work is Rachel Cusk's funny, moving, brutally honest account of her early experiences of motherhood. An education in babies, books, breast-feeding, toddler groups, broken nights, bad advice and never being alone, it is a landmark work, which has provoked acclaim and outrage in equal measure.

In the Fold (2005)

When eighteen-year-old Michael visits the Hanbury’s remote family home he is captivated by their bohemian lifestyle. Years later, when he marries the strong-willed, beautiful Rebecca, he is secretly hoping to create his own version of that free-thinking family, but after the birth of their first child, their marriage begins to flounder. The chance to escape once more to his friend’s country house comes as a welcome relief, until he discovers a family changed, and his own romantic notions of country life begin to disintegrate...

Arlington Park (2006)

Arlington Park is an ordinary English suburb. Over the course of a single day, the novel moves from one household to another, revealing its characters: Juliet, enraged at the victory of men over women in family life; Amanda, warding off thoughts of death with obsessive housework; Solly, about to give birth to her fourth child; Maisie, struggling to accept provincial life; and Christine, the optimist and host of a dinner part where the neighbours come together.

The Bradshaw Variations (2009)

Thomas Bradshaw and Tonie Swann are experiencing the classic symptoms of marriage in its middle years: comfortable house, happy-enough daughter and an eerie sense that life might be happening elsewhere. Then Tonie accepts a big promotion at work and Thomas agrees to become a stay-at-home dad. While Thomas is suddenly faced with the daily silence of an empty house, Tonie finds herself alive to previously unimagined possibilities. And at the head of the family, the ageing Bradshaw parents continue their marital dynamic of bickering and petty undermining.

The Last Supper (2009)

When Rachel Cusk decides to travel to Italy for a summer with her husband and two young children, she has no idea of the trials and wonders that lie in store. Their journey leads them to both the expected and the surprising, all seen through Cusk’s sharp and humane perspective.

Aftermath (2012)

In the winter of 2009, Rachel Cusk’s marriage of ten years came to an end. Candid and revelatory, Aftermath chronicles the perilous journey as the author redefines herself and creates a new version of family life for her daughters.

Outline (2014)

Spare and lucid, Outline follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing over an oppressively hot summer in Athens. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves, their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face great a great loss.

Transit (2017)

In the wake of her family's collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions­ – personal, moral, artistic, and practical – as she endeavours to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city, she is made to confront aspects of living that she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.

Kudos (2018)

A woman on a plane listens to the stranger in the seat next to hers telling her the story of his life: his work, his marriage, and the harrowing night he has just spent burying the family dog. The woman is on her way to Europe to promote the book she has just published. Once she reaches her destination, the conversations she has with the people she meets include the most far-reaching questions human beings ask. These conversations, the last of them on the phone with her son, rise dramatically and majestically to a beautiful conclusion.

Coventry (2019)

Encompassing memoir and cultural and literary criticism, with pieces on gender, politics and writers such as D. H. Lawrence, Olivia Manning and Natalia Ginzburg, this collection is essential reading for our age: fearless, unrepentantly erudite, both startling and rewarding to behold. The result is a cumulative sense of how the frank, deeply intelligent sensibility - so evident in her stories and novels - reverberates in the wider context of Cusk's literary process.

Second Place (2021)

A woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds.