Multi-award-winning author Rachel Cusk’s honest memoir that captures the life-changing wonders of motherhood.
Selected byThe New York Times as one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years
“Funny and smart and refreshingly akin to a war diary—sort of Apocalypse Baby Now . . .A Life’s Work is wholly original and unabashedly true.” —The New York Times Book Review
A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Motheris Rachel Cusk’s funny, moving, brutally honest account of her early experiences of motherhood. When it was published it 2001, it divided critics and readers. One famous columnist wrote a piece demanding that Cusk’s children be taken into care, saying she was unfit to look after them, and Oprah Winfrey invited her on the show to defend herself.
An education in babies, books, breast-feeding, toddler groups, broken nights, bad advice and never being alone, it is a landmark work, which has provoked acclaim and outrage in equal measure.
About the author
Rachel Cusk is the author of nine novels, three non-fiction works, a play, and numerous shorter essays and memoirs. Her first novel, Saving Agnes, was published in 1993. Her most recent novel, Kudos, the final part of the Outline trilogy, will be published in the US and the UK in May 2018.
Saving Agnes won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Country Life won the Somerset Maugham Award and subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Whitbread Prize, Goldsmiths Prize, Bailey’s Prize, and the Giller Prize and Governor General’s Award in Canada. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. Her version of Euripides’ Medea was directed by Rupert Goold and was shortlisted for the Susan Blackburn Smith Award.
Rachel was born in Canada in 1967 and spent her early childhood in Los Angeles before moving to the UK in 1974. She studied English at Oxford and published her first novel Saving Agnes when she was twenty six, and its themes of femininity and social satire remained central to her work over the next decade. In responding to the formal problems of the novel representing female experience she began to work additionally in non-fiction. Her autobiographical accounts of motherhood and divorce (A Life’s Work and Aftermath) were groundbreaking and controversial.
Most recently, after a long period of consideration, she attempted to evolve a new form, one that could represent personal experience while avoiding the politics of subjectivity and literalism and remaining free from narrative convention. That project became a trilogy (Outline, Transit and Kudos). Outline was one of The New York Times’ top 5 novels in 2015. Judith Thurman’s 2017 profile of Rachel in The New Yorker comments “Many experimental writers have rejected the mechanics of storytelling, but Cusk has found a way to do so without sacrificing its tension. Where the action meanders, language takes up the slack. Her sentences hum with intelligence, like a neural pathway.”
"[Cusk's] account is extraordinary for its absence of polemic: she writes with the intelligence, wit, and keen eye for detail demanded by any kind of reporting, and the result is a book on the subject curiously unlike any other."—The New Yorker
"[A Life's Work] is as compulsive as a thriller although its plot (pregnancy, birth, colic, sleepless nights) is - naturally - a shambles and its cast tiny and undistinguished (mother, father, baby, doctor, health visitor, a few friends). Its time scheme is wild - vertiginously unchronological, as if to convey the disorientation of fatigue: babies destroy all sense of conventional time . . . She describes the book as a letter to women 'in the hope that they find some companionship in my experience'. No mother could fail to be interested and moved. Most will recognise themselves."—Kate Kellaway,The Guardian
"Rachel Cusk writes about new motherhood with an honesty and clarity that makes this memoir feel almost illicit. Sleepless nights, yes; colic, yes; but also a raw, frantic love for her firstborn daughter that she depicts and dissects with both rigor and amazement. "—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review