Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Bradshaw Variations by Rachel Cusk

Book:  The Bradshaw Variations 

Author:  Rachel Cusk 

Grade:  B+ 

Recommended To:  Jonathan Franzen Fans who want to read a good story. 

I won this book on GoodReads and although I think the description on the back cover of the book needs serious attention, I really liked the book as a whole. 

Usually, I don't like and try to avoid books that are just about stuff.  Books that are just about people's lives but are magnificently well written are not my usual read.  I must have been in the right frame of mind today because I really enjoyed this book.  For example, Jonathan Franzen's style is very similar to Cusk's, but not once during this book did I want to throw it across the room and refuse to finish it. Unlike Franzen, Cusk's characters are full - they have a round, three-dimensional quality to them that makes them pop off the page.

I felt myself wondering how Rachel Cusk would describe my own life if she were looking in on it with her literary eye. Her descriptions are very beautiful and some ring truer than others. I especially liked the description of the gay piano playing couple. I could feel the exasperation that Benjamen expressed when his partner encroached on the piano lesson.  This is certainly an exasperation that extends to all couples and the tension was tangible. This was one of the best written passages in the book!

I suppose the biggest problem with this book is that the characters in this book lead perfectly normal lives, but they are all so deeply unhappy.   A woman goes to work while her husband stays home with the daughter. Tonie is deeply unsatisfied and is drifting, and Thomas is trying to find satisfaction in the piano of all things. In another relationship, Claudia just wants to paint, but can't seem to make time for herself because she feels so oppressed by her non-oppressive husband.   These are normal lives and relationships and I can understand why this book has been criticized for its attempt to elevate the normal. 

My all time favorite passage was: "The truth is that for the past week Thomas as worked on the adagio like a solitary prisoner tunneling under the fortress walls. It has felt like cheating just as it did when he studied all night to pass an exam, or got through the tedium of meetings by knowing more than anyone else, or planned down the last detail his strategy of attracting the attention of a woman he liked."  I love this description because this is how I feel about most of my life's accomplishments. 

I'm not sure if I will read other Cusk novels, because this isn't at all the type of book that I usually enjoy. The description of emotion and feelings often means that there are few descriptions of actual action and that can make a book extremely vague and frustrating, but I thought this book was beautiful.

Happy Reading!!

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