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Literary Collections Essays

Coventry: Essays

by (author) Rachel Cusk

HarperCollins Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Essays, Personal Memoirs, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
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    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
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A selection of her non-fiction writings that offer both new insights on the themes at the heart of her fiction and forge a startling critical voice on some of our most personal, social and artistic questions.

Coventry encompasses memoir, cultural criticism and writing about literature, with pieces on family life, gender, politics, D.H. Lawrence, Francoise Sagan and Elena Ferrante. Named for an essay in Granta (“Every so often, for offences actual or hypothetical, my mother and father stop speaking to me. There’s a funny phrase for this phenomenon in England: it’s called being sent to Coventry”), this collection is pure Cusk and essential reading for our age: fearless, unrepentantly erudite and dazzling to behold.


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


  • Unknown, Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year

Editorial Reviews

“A stellar accomplishment.”

The Guardian

 “A work of stunning beauty, deep insight and great originality.”

<em>New York Times</em>

 “Cusk’s writing feels, exhilaratingly, unlike any other fiction being written.”

Toronto Star

“[Transit’s] themes of transience and dislocation are contiguous with a broader conversation about the fluidity of identity resulting, in part, from an increasingly—and contentiously (see Brexit, Trump, etc.)—borderless planet.”

The Globe and Mail

 “Cusk is a master of sparse, exquisite prose. . . . [Outline] successfully conveys all of her admirable honesty in the safe harbour of fiction, and somehow delivers more human truths than most memoirs ever could.”

The Globe and Mail

“[A] lethally intelligent novel. . . . Spend much time with this novel and you’ll become convinced that [Cusk] is one of the smartest writers alive. ”

<em>New York Times</em>

Praise for Kudos


“Quietly staggering and intellectually entrancing . . . [Cusk’s] writing is silvery and precise, navigated by elegant syntax that steers its speaker towards revelations of great depth . . . These novels are among the most important written in this century so far.”

The Globe and Mail


Toronto Star

Praise for Outline

No Source

“Brave and uncompromising. . . . A work of cut-glass brilliance.”

<em>Financial Times</em>

Praise for Transit


“One of our most astute writers. . . . Cusk is very good at creating characters who seem fresh; they blossom under her pen. . . . This is part of what makes [Transit] so effective and smart.”

Quill & Quire (starred review)

Other titles by Rachel Cusk