Review: Transit by Rachel Cusk

transitTransit, Cusk’s second book in what will be a trilogy of fictional autobiographies about the aftermath of her divorce, begins with an unsolicited email that Faye, the narrator, receives from a psychic.  The self-proclaimed astrologist says  that she is in possession of specific details about Faye’s life: “She wished me to know that a major transit was due to occur shortly in my sky.”  Just as in Outline, the narrator deliberately leaves details about herself out of the narrative; we only get passing glimpses of her life through her interactions with others.  A visit to the hairdresser, a trip to a literary festival, a date, and a party at a friend’s home all become the backdrop for intriguing conversations and interactions that partly reveal Faye’s own story.

At the beginning of this story, Faye has moved back to London with her boys after her divorce and has bought an apartment that is a disaster.  It requires a complete overhaul and the demolition of her apartment by the contractors becomes a metaphor for her own life.  She sends her boys away to spend a few weeks with their father while her surroundings are being dismantled.  She describes her house to a man with whom she agrees to go on a date:

I felt cold.  There were builders in my house, I added.  The doors and windows were constantly open and the heating had been turned off.  The house had become a tomb, a place of dust and chill.  It was impossible to eat or sleep or work—there wasn’t even anywhere to sit down.  Everywhere I looked I saw skeletons, the skeletons of walls and floors, so that the house felt unshielded, permeable, as though all the things those walls and floors ought normally to keep out were free to enter.

There is always the feeling in a Cusk novel that a simple description, like this one about her renovated home, has a much heavier and deeper meaning than what we encounter at first glance.  There are several passages that I found throughout the book that I underlined and were worthy of multiple reads.

One additional aspect of Transit that I found particularly intriguing were the descriptions of Faye’s children.  Similar to Outline they are never physically present with Faye in the book.  We only get descriptions of them when they call her from their father’s home.  When the boys call her they are lost, or locked out of the house, or feeling alone; they are still in need of her maternal love and I felt sad that they were separated from her, even if only for a little while.  At the end of the book Faye is at a party and the boys call her cell phone because they are fighting and cannot solve their conflict.  They ask her for help and admit that their father is nowhere to be found.  There are additional hints at the father’s anger, maltreatment of Faye and lack of involvement in the boys’ lives.  I am very interested to see if Cusk will further explore the post-divorce family dynamic in the final book of the trilogy.

Fate, identity, love, marriage and transitions are all themes that Cusk explores though the interesting conversations she writes for her characters.  Cusk’s writing is both compelling and philosophical, a combination which so few writers are successfully able to achieve.


Filed under British Literature, Literary Fiction

11 responses to “Review: Transit by Rachel Cusk

  1. “Compelling and philosophical” – nice way of summarizing Rachel Cusk’s work. I just wrote a review of Transit which I will be posting this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In her recent interview with Rachel Cusk, Caille Millner asked Cusk why she had not, as she had suggested in an earlier interview, written about sex in Transit. Cusk’s response was that children had taken over as a dominant theme (perhaps not unusual) and she’d have to write about sex in another book. In that interview she named the third book in this series as Kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that interesting background info. I should listen to the interview. Also glad I picked up on the theme of children. The party at the end of the book with the crying and misbehaving children made me cringe!


  3. Cusk does sound like an author worth exploring – she’s hitting my radar a lot at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No I’m anxious to hear about the third book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Really good and informative review, thank you! I’m looking forward to reading her work.


  6. buriedinprint

    You read Outline kinda recently, didn’t you? I’m trying to decide whether or not to reread Outline first (it’s been more than a year – the answer is likely, yes, I should). Her works could always use a reread for sure!


  7. Pingback: Giller Shortlist: Transit by Rachel Cusk – Consumed by Ink

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