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The Country Life by Rachel Cusk
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The Country Life (1997)

by Rachel Cusk

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I quite enjoyed this after a slow start - I really liked Cusk's way of expressing Stella's inner thoughts and feelings, and thought they were very accurately portrayed.

I'm not so sure about the plot generally. It's an interesting premise with some promising characters and funny situations, but I got to the end and wondered whether the last few pages of my copy had been removed! A few plotlines don't get any resolution, and I didn't particularly like the seeming resolution of one of them right at the end.

Still, I enjoyed Cusk's writing enough that I'll look to read something else by her in the future. ( )
  mooingzelda | May 15, 2019 |
Started this book three times, and finally got through - it was worth the trouble. The main character's internal dialogue, and her actions, are difficult to relate to except in the broadest sense, and I didn't really understand why other readers think her work funny. The gradual reveal (not a full reveal) of why she has left her place and gone to be a carer for a teenage boy was annoying. But the overall effect of being inside such a character was so wonderful I'll be seeking out her other books! ( )
  lisahistory | Jun 18, 2018 |
On one level this is a very enjoyable farce that is consciously reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm. On another it is a nightmarish tale of a naive and hapless woman trying to escape her life by accepting a position as a companion to the disabled son of an argumentative and dysfunctional upper middle class family on a remote farm in Sussex, despite an obvious lack of qualifications and experience. Cusk does not spare any of her characters much sympathy, so the comedy is pretty dark in places, and like all of her books it is stylish and beautifully written. ( )
  bodachliath | May 4, 2016 |
I quite liked this book, although I didn't ever take it very seriously. It wasn't at all realistic, IMHO. The blurb calls it "subtle"....I agree if you call a sledge hammer subtle. There was humour, but much of it was almost slapstick.I have no idea whether the people described could actually exist in England, but they're certainly not in my life. ( )
  oldblack | Aug 17, 2015 |
I stayed up late to finish this book last night. I’d finally gotten to about page 300 and thought: finally, something is about to happen . . . we’re getting to the point. But alas, no. Literally, when I finished the last page of the book, I turned the page and said: is my book defective? Because it couldn’t possibly end there. But after I checked the page count on Amazon, I realized that it was in fact over. And then I wanted to give a frustrated shriek.

The book was an odd one for me. I often have a difficult time getting into a book. In fact, it’s the very rare book that I don’t fight with at least the first 30-50 pages trying to get into it. But when I do, it’s usually next to impossible to get me to set it down before it’s done. The Country Life didn’t get me interested until about 150 pages into it. And I only kept reading because I thought it was a “city girl deals with transformation into country life and this is how it happened” kind of book, which I usually adore. But it wasn’t really a book about that at all.

The whole book was about some neurotic, if not actually truly unbalanced, woman who ran away from her life. We’re told that she did it because she saw her life fully mapped out before her and she wanted to escape that. But you never get the feeling that that was it. I think the handicapped charge that she is companion to in the country ultimately hits it on the head toward the end of the book: she’s a coward and she’s selfish. The story starts with Stella, the neurotic escapist, writing some rather scathing letters to people in her soon-to-be former life. And I understood that. I think we’ve all had a moment or two where writing such a letter sounded awfully satisfying. Ms. Cusk makes them deliberately vague so that she has somewhere to take the book later on. But she doesn’t.

The whole story is a series of random things that the author mentions once or twice that seem relevant, possibly important to the story, and then she never brings them up again. By the end of the story, I think that Stella is merely a lush and wonder if she is actually going to end up bedding her charge at some point either in a drunken moment or in some contrived situation that sounds unselfish but is in fact the ultimate in selfishness.

This book gets two thumbs down from me. A total waste of my time. The writing was sometimes well-done and at others truly horrendous. The plot ebbs and flows along until you realize that there actually is no plot. The story isn’t plausible and by the end, it’s not that you care what happens, you just have a 350 page investment upon which you feel entitled to having something be delivered. Boo. ( )
  mullgirl | Jun 8, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rachel Cuskprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was to take the four o'clock train from Charing Cross to Buckley, a small town some three miles, I had been told, from the village of Hilltop.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312252803, Paperback)

In Rachel Cusk's The Country Life, city mouse Stella abruptly abandons her London career and man for a job in Sussex. Her mission: to care for and transport young Martin, the disabled son of country mice Piers and Pamela Madden, owners of Franchise Farm. Alas, all is not ambrosia in Arcadia. For a start, the Maddens are, well, maddening. The paterfamilias sports "an expression of bright vacancy on his rosy face" whereas his wife evinces a more dramatic sort of derangement: "Pamela, I realized, spoke a language of energetic emergency, in which problems were approached as violently as they were escaped from." To make matters worse, not only does our heroine lack any background in her new field--she doesn't even know how to drive. Long before she's forced behind the wheel, however, Stella is out of her element. Nature, even the very air, seems against her. In one devastating tour de force, she falls asleep in the sun and is hideously burnt (but only on one side of her body!) and then suffers an indoor avian attack.

Fans of Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm will recognize more than a few nods to her classic in Rachel Cusk's hilarious and caustic third novel. For a start, the locals are unfailingly lugubrious, and every dog seems to have it in for our girl from the city. As for her young charge, Martin is either an emotional monster or a savior--though we readers might well opt for the former. The Country Life again and again displays Cusk's eye and ear for surreal comedy and social unpleasantry. Suffice it to say that your idea of a pleasant sojourn--or even a brief walk--in the country will never be the same. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:22 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Stella Benson answers a classified ad for an au pair girl, and arrives in a tiny sussex village. What could possibly have driven her to leave her home, job, and life in London for such a rural life? Why has she severed all contact with her parents?

» see all 3 descriptions

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