This is not a sober review. (It’s after 8 pm on New Year’s Eve. Do you want an apology?)
This is the story of one woman, told through the lives of all of the people she encounters on one trip. As the protagonist travels to and spends time in Athens to teach a writing class, everyone she encounters shares details of their life stories with her. Each narrative reflects on human nature, love, and the structure of a story. I can only describe Cusk’s prose as smooth as she seamlessly ties all of these characters and narratives together, while still circling them around the central figure of the writing teacher.
I couldn’t help but think about one of my favourite episode’s of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while reading this, called “The Body.” After Buffy’s mother dies (spoiler alert?), the episode follows each character’s own responses to the death, the absence. In one of Buffy’s sister’s art classes, the teacher says, “Now remember, you’re not drawing the body but the negative space around it.” In a similar fashion, we are not given a character, but the space around that character. Most of what we can gather about her is given through someone else’s story, and this book is brilliant in its delivery.
Books read: 13