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In the Fold by Rachel Cusk
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In the Fold

by Rachel Cusk

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Showing 5 of 5
A very well written novel that never quite got going and became interesting enough for me to care what happened. The premise was excellent; of a young man interested in the family of his friend. Visiting again years later he finds things are different than they had been on the summer evening he visited before. Along with this story is the story of his own marriage which is very fragile. This is enough to make a good tale and I'm not sure why the novel doesn't manage it, somehow, although it is skilful, it doesn't have the warmth needed to make this work. The description of the farm on the top of the hill with a view of the sea is beautifully done and the sense of place here is very good. ( )
1 vote Tifi | Jan 20, 2016 |
A few years ago I went to the pub with a friend of mine, Jamie, and a friend of his, Gerard. After listening to Gerard speak without pause for half an hour I excused myself and went to the loo. A few seconds later, Jamie followed me in.
“I had to have a break.” I said. “He's just so boring.”
“I know.” said Jamie. “I'm so sorry.”
We hugged and went back to the table. Gerard repeated the last word he had said before I left and then carried on with the sentence.

Reading this novel reminded me of that day. It's such a shame, because the writing is pretty good. She's got the skills but not the soul.

She's fond of her similes and some are hit but most are miss. I'm not sure if she's going for an elevated tone or showing off or what, she's definitely putting the effort in, but she gives these outlandish similes to describe such boring things they just seem out of place.

Her dialogue is really good. She may use it to have her characters say incredibly uninteresting things, but it sounds real and she made me laugh three or four times. ( )
  Lukerik | Sep 9, 2015 |
I found the people in this story to be weird. So much so (and all of them, not just one or two) that I couldn't really relate to the story very well at all. I did find some interest in the relationship issues between the main character, Michael, and his partner, Rebecca, however, and that kept me going to the bitter end. It hasn't put me off Rachel Cusk though. I think she's a good writer. ( )
  oldblack | Jul 23, 2015 |
This was a bit like a temperamental old car - started off a bit jerky and I wasn't at all sure I was going to be able to make the journey, but once it got up to speed, it was as smooth as anything and I fairly sped along through some great scenery.

It's a good idea to keep a dictionary close at hand - any author who makes free with the word 'contemporaneous' on the very first page is serving fair warning on the reader. And there are some unbelievably long and complicated sentences lurking in the early chapters, like brambles snaking through the undergrowth ready to trip the unwary speed-reader. To read this story out loud I swear you would need an extra lung.

Once I got beyond the first thirty or so pages, it became clear that this is an author with an impressive grip on characterisation, and a lot of very astute points to make (albeit not very succinctly). It was a shame that books are expected to have a central 'message', because in trying to make its point, this book occasionally strayed away from the startlingly brilliant dialogue and character portrayal into forced psychobabble. I'm thinking particularly of Michael's encounter late on with his wife and her bitchy friend which started off excellent but degenerated.

I thought Michael came across a bit asexual, which often happens when an author chooses a first person narrator of the opposite sex to tell a story. On the other hand I thought this gave her an excellent opportunity to point out the bizarre things some women do and say. This occurs again and again in this book and I thought the author handled it beautifully. The way the character Lisa deals with children interrupting her conversations with other adults was deserving of four and a half stars all on its own! ( )
  jayne_charles | Aug 25, 2010 |
When Michael is invited by his friend and fellow student to attend his sister's 18th birthday party, he quickly falls in love with the eccentric and bohemian Hanbury family of Egypt Hill, a wonderful old house nad large sheepfarm in Devon.

We're never told much about Michael's background, but can only surmise that it must have been pretty dull for him to have been so easily seduced by this apparently chaotic and Bohemian extended family.

We then skip a decade or two. Michael is an established lawyer and has married into a family which shares many similarities with the Hanbury's: the Alexanders are wealthy, aristocratic and unconventional. But his relationship with his wife Rebecca is uneasy: she seems to be going through a crisis after the birth of their son, Hamish. When the balcony of their Georgian townhouse in Bath falls and almost kills him, it is clearly symbolic of the state of their marriage.

Then Adam gets in touch. His father is in hospital having a prostate operation. It's the lambing season and Adam could use another pair of hands. Michael decides to use the opportunity to take a break from his marriage, and carts the non-communicative Hamish along with him.

Egypt is little changed, although ugly modern development encroaches on the hill and has swallowed up much of the town. The Hanburys don't improve with requantance: Michael witnesses the family bickerings and machinations, and in a climactic scene in the farm's kitchen, the disclosure of ugly secrets buried for decades.

Cusk's great strength is in careful social observation and fine detailing, and In the Fold is an extremely interesting comedy of manners. Michael is a strangely inert central character which makes him the perfect observer of the drama unfolding at Egypt ... and also in his own home. The characters are very well drawn and most quite stunning in their awfulness.

There's a lot of dialogue - in fact in many of the scenes nothing happens but talk, so that it felt, at times like reading a playscript. But the conversations are so totally revealing of the characters, brilliantly observed and often very funny.

But maybe I wasn't concentrating hard enough because I kept getting confused about who was who in the Hanbury clan (there's a large cast of minor characters) and had to flip back the pages. Annoying! ( )
1 vote bibliobibuli | Jul 19, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316058270, Hardcover)

As a college student Michael visited Egypt Hill, the curiously named estate of his roommate+s family, for a garden party, and in one afternoon met a host of eccentric characters who have stayed with him ever since. Years later he decides a return to Egypt Hill would be an ideal sojourn-a place where he can escape the chaos at home that is destroying his marriage, his fashionably old townhouse, and possibly his worrisomely taciturn young son, Hamish.But now nothing in Egypt Hill is as it was, or at least how it once seemed. With Hamish in tow, Michael discovers the house teeming with age-old deceptions, broken confidences, and sordid alliances. At the heart of the turmoil is a lie so shameful, every Hanbury is responsible for its concealment. With his marriage crumbling in a series of telephone calls and his son growing more peculiar by the day, Michael is witness to the spectacular unraveling of a family-until a violent accident draws him, inexorably, into the fold.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:04 -0400)

Returning to the site of a garden party where he made some lasting friendships, Michael hopes to escape his troubled marriage and brings along his taciturn young son, but discovers the place to be fraught with long-standing deceptions.

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