"The stunning second novel of a trilogy that began with Outline, one of The New York Times Book Review's ten best books of 2015 In the wake of family collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. 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 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 cycle of novels, 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. "--"Sequel to Rachel Cusk's Outline"--
The writing here is measured and calm. Even a melodramatic scene toward the end is observed as one might treat a Greek chorus, its significance no greater or less than any other event on offer. But does this speak to some ultimate purpose, a fate to which we must reconcile ourselves? Or does the equivocation put the lie to the presumption of meaningfulness? Faye doesn’t take sides, slipping away at the end like a house guest after a trying party. And so we are left with what? A passing storm? The transit of a planet across a constellation? A novel? In each case we are left to make of them what we will.
These are heady metaphysical waters. But Cusk handles such matters gently. You might easily go along on the current and only realize your transposition of locale after the fact. Just what reading a novel ought to enable. Nicely done!
For a long time, I said, I believed that it was only through absolute passivity that you could learn to see what was really there. But my decision to create a disturbance by renovating my house had awoken a different reality, as though I had disturbed a beast, sleeping in its lair. I had started to become, in effect, angry.
The protagonist is still listening to people as they bare parts of themselves to her, but she's also present in her life in a way she wasn't in Outline. That said, this is still not a plot-driven novel. She attends a literary festival, gets work done on her house and has coffee or dinner with people. Yet, the glimpses into the minds of others is fascinating, as well as her own reactions to what they tell her. And Cusk's writing is very fine; it's as clear and unobtrusive as water.
Cusk seems to be having a lot more fun with Transit than she did with the first novel. There's more humor here (the book festival episode is at times hilarious), and her characters are more defined. The writer herself does a good deal of self-assessment. Terrific writing here as well! I can't wait to read the next installment. I've been stuck in some not-so-great books, so I may just have to spring for the full price rather than waiting for a sale or for a library copy.