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Social Science Women's Studies


On Marriage and Separation

by (author) Rachel Cusk

Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Women's Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2013
    List Price

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“Beautiful . . . Compelling . . . Cusk [is] an extraordinary writer of the female experience.” —Financial Times
In the winter of 2009, Rachel Cusk’s marriage of ten years came to an end. Candid and revelatory, Aftermath chronicles the perilous journey as the author redefines herself and creates a new version of family life for her daughters. She discovers previously unknown strengths and freedoms but also finds herself suddenly vulnerable to outsiders, unwelcome advice, social displacement, and the absence of a clear authority. The pressure to reconstruct a “normal” life for her daughters competes with the sense that nothing feels normal at all.
Aftermath is a classic: a masterly work in which the author, at her most ruthless and rigorous, charts the largely unwritten journey back to order from the chaos that is left when a family breaks apart.

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.”

Rachel Cusk's profile page


  • Long-listed, Bookish Best Books of the Year
  • Long-listed, Library Journal Best Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews

“Cusk can nail a simile like Gabby Douglas can execute a backflip....[She] is not afraid to take herself seriously--which is a tendency that George Eliot, among others, understood the value of.” —Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker
“ slim and revealing as a microscope slide...over eight echo-laden chapters, Cusk moves through her period of aftermath, from agitation to recrimination, to numbness, to new stirrings.” —Lisa Shea, Elle
“Like Virginia Woolf, Cusk is a digressive but strategic essayist....This book is a solace to anybody who has dwelt in post-familial wastes.” —Liza Mundy, San Francisco Chronicle
“Thrilling...There are riches buried like gold in the bitter picture Cusk describes...An enormously talented writer.” —Nan Goldberg, The Boston Globe
“Engaging...[and] full of feeling...Cusk is a great observer of the roles people--and especially women--play, studying not only the garbs they put on for tradition and ideology but also how this action affects their understanding of themselves.” —Ashley Nelson, The Washington Post
“Compelling...Strikingly beautiful...Meticulously crafted...[Cusk] is a keen, even brilliant, observer of her own behavior.” —Margaret Eby, The Christian Science Monitor
“Striking...Startling...Unflinching...Bold, gripping, original and occasionally darkly funny.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“I read A Life's Work shortly after I, too, had had a child, and doing so was like finally letting go of a breath I had held for a year. Ostentatiously smart, fearless, the author displayed what almost seemed a compulsion to yank the threads of that impossibly pretty doily tatted by convention around motherhood...Her memoir of divorce displays the same ferocity of intellect, humor, and occasional bad mood.” —Melissa Holbrook Pierson, The Daily Beast
“In this thought-provoking memoir, Cusk musters her considerable literary powers to mine a complex terrain filled with heartbreak and doubt...Interspersed within the narrative are stories within stories, vivid scenes, and piercing observations.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Compelling and assured...[Cusk is an] exacting, formidable talent.” —Alison Pick, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“A penetrating exploration of gender roles in the context of marriage and family and how the dissolution of a marriage changes a person's relationship with others.” —Vanessa Bush, Booklist
“A well-wrought treatise on the stark reality of divorce. Cusk fearlessly cultivates her own aftermath, or ‘second sowing,' and chooses to live ‘the disorganized life and feel the dark stirrings of creativity, than to dwell in civilized unity, racked by the impulse to destroy.'” —Meganne Fabrega, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Artful and nuanced...[Cusk] has the novelist's saving graces--honesty, courage, and the ability to depict her experiences in exquisitely crafted language...Her exacting, cerebral treatment of such a highly-charged subject is what makes it of literary value.” —Amanda Craig, The Independent
“Brilliant...Rachel Cusk's books are like pop-up volumes for grown-ups, the prose springing out of the page to bop you neatly between the eyes with its insights.” —Julie Burchill, The Observer (London)
“Unflinching and beautifully wrought...Cusk uses the [memoir] form with great tact and writerly panache. She is at once probing and reticent, mustering her scenes and images to convey the truth of enmeshed lives and loves...[Aftermath is] full of beauty--the beauty of language struggling to reveal an experience which is complex and scored with doubts and pain.” —Lisa Appignanesi, The Daily Telegraph
“Startlingly insightful...Rachel Cusk's writing has quietly thrilled me for years with its intelligence, perception and understated power: ordinary people's flaws are depicted vividly yet without fanfare in brittle, brilliant prose...As always with Cusk, it's exhilarating to feel stimulated, to have fabulous phrases and similes cause pulses of pleasure.” —Leyla Sanai, The Independent on Sunday
“Readers who admire the difficult discipline of self-scrutiny will find precision, beauty and a complicated truth in Cusk's narrative.” —Jane Shilling, New Statesman
“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.” —Elissa Schappell, The New York Times Book Review, on A Life's Work
“[Cusk] 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 on A Life's Work
“Pity the writer who has the misfortune to produce a book at the same time and on the same subject as the ridiculously gifted Rachel Cusk. The author of three novels, Cusk brings her clear-eyed wit to the subject of motherhood...You get the sense of a superior mind that can't stop itself from whirring away.” —Newsday on A Life's Work
“Hauntingly beautiful...[Cusk] succeeds in finding an original, literary language to express the journey to motherhood.” —The Christian Science Monitor on A Life's Work
“A wonder. Cusk has written something fine and beautiful...I can't imagine that anyone who is both a reader and a mother will be unmoved by it.” —The Atlantic Monthly on A Life's Work
“She captures the absolute shock of suddenly finding yourself responsible for another person--with no training, no guidance, and, indeed, no one coming from their planet to take them back. A brilliant book--and so funny too.” —Kate Atkinson on A Life's Work
“I loved reading it, and found it fascinating, but I also found it dangerous. An incitement to riot...It's an extraordinary piece of work and the writing is utterly beautiful...I laughed out loud, often, in painful recognition.” —Esther Freud on A Life's Work

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