The stunning new novel from the author of Outline, a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year
In the wake of family collapse, a writer moves to London with her two young sons. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, practical—as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.
Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed novel Outline, and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change. In this precise, short, and yet epic novel, Cusk manages to describe the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life, through a narrative near-silence that draws language toward it. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one’s life and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We first discovered Rachel Cusk after picking up 2015’s brilliant Outline, a loose prequel to Transit. Cusk has an astonishing talent for writing about the minor conflicts and dramas that happen in life’s margins, rumbling like the precursors to an earthquake. Her story revolves around a brainy, analytical writer in the midst of a divorce and a traumatic renovation project. A precise, observant first-person narrator, she provides us a porthole into her life through her interactions and conversations with friends, family, and strangers. But Cusk’s heroine remains a mystery…just like pretty much every other human being we’ve met.
Cusk's outstanding latest, the second in a trilogy, works as both a companion piece to the superb Outline and as an independent narrative, following Faye, a writer and teacher, who moves to London with her two young sons after a divorce. As in Outline, Faye's arc is less about plotted action and is more a series of vignettes, focused this time on long conversations about the ways we journey through life. During these chats, her hairdresser reveals his confrontation with fear and being unwanted one New Year's Eve, and an author, while speaking on a panel with Faye at a literary festival, talks about the fame he has received by revealing personal stories. A construction worker soundproofing her floors talks with Faye about architecture and broken families, and a potential student discusses her obsession with an obscure painter, and how her love for him sprung from the ashes of a failed attempted affair. As always, Cusk's ear for language and dialogue is sharp; her characters speak about universal ideas, such as anxiety and lust. This marvelous novel continues the author's vivid exploration of the human condition.
I want to love this book...
...but while I absolutely love her prose, there's something self-indulgent about how it meanders from one detailed description of a personal interaction to another. It might not be autobiographical, but it feels that way and unfortunately also as if the most interesting bits have been edited out. There's a lot of philosophical musing embedded in each of these moments - it's as if you could spend hours meditating or debating the axioms she has her characters describe - but ultimately the narrative is lost for me. It's like an unsuccessful Spike Lee joint - beautiful, deep, and somewhat dark, it doesn't seem to justify itself - and sometimes you wonder why you were even invited in to observe.