36) Transit by Rachel Cusk
This was recommended to me by a friend who is also a writer (shout out to Chris), and I spotted it in a charity bookshop nearby, so here we are. Brilliantly, I now realise that I’ve started with the second book in a trilogy – the first being Outline and the most recent Kudos. All have attracted significant critical acclaim, although oddly not made it on to the various award shortlists.
Short version: I really loved it, but it’s quite difficult to describe as there is no substantial plot to speak of, and Cusk has a fairly unique style. It is ostensibly about a woman transitioning to a new life, post-divorce and moving into a new house with her two sons. In reality, it’s a series of interconnected vignettes with a different main ‘foil’ to the main character (who is clearly close to the author) in each of these episodes. And the use of this passive or attentive listening seems to put the reader right in the heart of these moments and conversations.
Each of these explores relationships and interactions with neighbours, family, work colleagues and friends, but also manages (somehow, seamlessly) to investigate large issues as diverse as immigration, employment, parenting, dating, urban living and much more. Cusk has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and a spare exact style which is not in the slightest bit clinical, but somehow sinuous and effortless.
In terms of its control, clarity, and power, the book reminded me of the finest moments of Elizabeth Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton, which is one of the best novels I’ve read in recent months. This is absolutely up there as well, and I’ll be going both back and forward in the trilogy, and reading more of her work.
BUY IT NOW: Transit