Transit / Rachel Cusk

Transit is the second novel in Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy.  Faye, the story’s narrator, is a writer, a mother of two, and recently divorced.  As in Outline, the first book in the series, she reveals little about herself or her thoughts, instead describing in great detail interactions with people who cross her path in daily life.  In Transit, Faye has just moved back to London and purchased a flat in need of serious repair.  While the renovation takes place, her children are sent to live with their father.  Just as in Outline, where she is alone in Greece teaching a writing course, the presence of her children is only glimpsed in the forms of texts they send her when they are facing typical adolescent emergencies.  

The cast of characters she interacts with include contractors, a cranky couple on the floor below who hate any kind of noise and quickly take a strong dislike to her, as well as friends and family members.  As in Outline, she remains mostly a passive observer, her prose providing vivid portraits of the people she engages with in long conversations, rather than of herself.  Although mostly silent about her own life or feelings, in each interaction, bit by bit, pieces of Faye’s life and opinions are exposed.  While her divorce and the swirling emotions surrounding it remain murky, by the book’s end, slips of the tongue do provide revelations.

For those needing a plot driven narrative, the Outline trilogy is best avoided.  In these first two books, Cusk delights in meandering with no clear destination in mind.  Clearly, the focal point is on the journey and not a specific finish line.  What makes both books so special is Cusk’s mastery of creating fascinating character sketches that ring so true to life.  I suspect that readers will either be enchanted by the Outline trilogy or will dismiss it as pointless.  I put myself in the camp of those held captive by Cusk’s prose.  Not only am I eager to pick up the concluding book in this trilogy, I intend to seek out her other works as well.  In 2003, Granta magazine listed Rachel Cusk among the best of young British novelists.  Her later work has lived up to their expectations.

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