Outline by Rachel Cusk is a strange book, without a narrative spine. So, not a novel as such, more a collection of incidents which happen to an unnamed woman writer visiting Athens to teach creative writing. We learn more about the people she interacts with, than about her. People rarely ask her questions and her internal monologue is sparse. There is no cause and effect, no tension, nothing to make me curious.
This book was shortlisted for two prices, the Folio Prize, and the 2015 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. The writing is beautiful, by which I mean the expression, the ideas explored and use of language, but it left me untouched, without strong feelings of like or dislike. Central to this feeling, I think, is that we do not know the narrator’s name.
There is a quote from one of the narrator’s writing students, speaking in a class discussion, which sums it up for me: “…a story might merely be a series of events we believe ourselves to be involved in, but on which we have absolutely not influence at all.”
If you like ‘Outline’, try:-
‘Yuki Chan in Bronte Country’ by Mick Jackson
‘Foxlowe’ by Eleanor Wasserberg
‘All the Birds, Singing’ by Evie Wyld
‘Outline’ by Rachel Cusk [UK: Vintage] Buy now
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