…Aftermarth – Rachel Cusk (Book Review)

‘X answers. Our conversation is like chewing on razor blades, like eating caustic soda. Our talk is a well that has been poisoned, but all the same I drink from it.’
– X is Cusk’s husband, we never know what they talk about.It takes a lot to make my reading slow down so much that it takes this amount of time to read 153 pages.

Using a mode that Cusk does herself, the metaphor: Aftermath is like wading through a marsh, unaware of your surroundings you try to grasp where you are headed or the reason why you decided to head this way, every now and agin you glance a shimmer of light but it fades like a candle that has finally reached the end of its wick. You cling onto the idea that there was some sort of great knowledge that you suspected you would gain from this walk but as you slow down and grind to a halt at various intervals you start to think that the whole adventure is just a self-pitying cry for attention. You reach the end of the marsh and see various paths and roads that lead back; you wonder why you didn’t just go that way in the first instance.

I hate to say this about any book, especially a book that is autobiographical to the nth degree, but Aftermath wasn’t, in my opinion, an emotional exposé auto-biography but a chance for Cusk to shake the grey, cold feeling of emptiness that she describes throughout the book, a personal text that should have perhaps been left that way.

There is little to no chronology to Cusk’s memoir, it doesn’t begin with the break up of her marriage or end with a description of her life now, it doesn’t describe why or how her and her husband (or X as he is in one chapter referred to as,) ended their marriage or even, in any clear sense, how she felt about the matter. Cusk uses metaphor upon metaphor and anecdote after anecdote in her attempt to convey the feeling after one goes though a divorce, but I was just left feeling confused.

If I had any praise for the book it would be the final chapter in which she describes the days of the break up from the perspective of their nanny. If perhaps the whole book had followed that route I would have gained more of a feeling of story and less a feeling of short snippets of the story, collected together without correlation or parallel.

Cusk’s style of writing is perhaps much better suited to fiction, where she can push the boundaries of style and chronology more than auto-biography.

What I wished to gain from Cusk’s memoir I didn’t and what I did gain is alien to me, I can’t place it or even glimpse it. Give it a go, if you so wish: here.

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