Author: Rachel Cusk, 2014.
Genre: Contemporary. Literary.
Other Details: Hardback. 249 pages.
A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.
Beginning with the neighbouring passenger on the flight out and his tales of fast boats and failed marriages, the storytellers talk of their loves and ambitions and pains, their anxieties, their perceptions and daily lives. In the stifling heat and noise of the city the sequence of voice begins to weave a complex human tapestry. The more they talk the more elliptical their listener becomes, as she shapes and directs their accounts until certain themes begin to emerge: the experience of loss, the nature of family life, the difficulty of intimacy and the mystery of creativity itself. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
he elegance and economy of the writing made this short novel a pleasure to read even though its format of a woman during a short visit to Athens listening to various snippets of people's life stories is not what I usually find satisfying in a novel. It is a novel with no real plot yet proved very engaging as if the stories were being conveyed directly rather than through this medium. She also captures the heat and ambiance of Athens and the surrounding area that transports the reader.
There really are no wasted words here and I would have loved this on audio just to enjoy the language spoken aloud. Audio would also suit the story-telling format.
While I admire the writing, it is not my favourite for the Baileys Prize because I am drawn to novels that are more than highlighting the writer's skill even when they are as outstanding as in Outline.