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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

The Last Supper

A Summer in Italy

by (author) Rachel Cusk

Publisher
Picador
Initial publish date
Jan 2022
Category
Personal Memoirs
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781250828248
    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
    List Price
    $23

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Description

A vivid and elegant memoir of a family’s season abroad by the author of the Outline trilogy.
When Rachel Cusk decides to travel to Italy for a summer with her husband and two young children, she has no idea of the trials and wonders that lie in store. Their journey, chronicled in The Last Supper, leads them to both the expected and the surprising, all seen through Cusk’s sharp and humane perspective.

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

Editorial Reviews

“Each sentence is crisply perfect, binding brilliantly detailed descriptions to sensitive, sharp observations.” —Bookforum
“A fascinating inquiry into expectations and our desire to rigidly control our lives.” —Los Angeles Times
“[Cusk] examines the whole notion of travel, investigates the consolations of art in an increasingly disfigured world, and writes about food and landscape in prose that constantly reminds us what language can do.” —TLS
“Enthusiastic, curious and observant . . . Cusk is a natural and gifted writer from whom dazzling descriptions, analyses, metaphors and similes gush forth in rich profusion . . . Delightful and perceptive.” —Daily Telegraph
“Elegantly written and astutely observed . . . Cusk's assessments of art are wonderfully idiosyncratic . . . Rigorous and compelling.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A writer of almost electrifying intensity . . . [Cusk's] rigorous intellect is always at play, whether she's writing about a tomato or a tomb, and it is this very archness, this passion, that gives her beautiful, moving book such power. Indeed, her detailed examination of the tiny nuances that embroider family life gives her account of her Italian summer the kind of luminosity she seeks, and finds, in visual art.” —Hilary Fannin, The Irish Times
“Cusk is often bracing and rigorous, . . . applying her phrases like the brushstrokes of the masters she so admires. This is the finest memoir of Italy I have read since--twenty years ago more or less--Jonathan Keates' Italian Journeys made Italy suddenly seem irresistible and present in all its dimensions. Cusk makes Italy sing.” —Tom Adair, The Scotsman
“[Cusk] writes with the intelligence, wit, and keen eye for detail demanded by any kind of reporting.” —The New Yorker
“A rich meditation: on separation, on possession, on Renaissance artists, and, inevitably, on the transformative nature of travel.” —The Times
“Whether considering language, food or national habits, she has an amazing ability to strike at the heart of things, to look afresh and not overlook.” —The Guardian
“There's a reason for the unrelenting stream of literature about moving to Italy—it's everyone's fantasy. Cusk details her family's three-month tour of the country in this delightful romp through rented villas, Amalfi beaches and plenty of pasta and gelato.” —More
“Engaging. . . 'The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy' is not your typical rosemary-scented, ready-for-cable ode to renovating a rustic house and rubbing shoulders with jolly peasants. . . . The author approaches everything she sees through the prism of history and literature, allowing herself to be captivated by her surroundings even while she is trying desperately to detach herself from the tourists all around. Cusk may hate tourists--her descriptions of them are usually hilarious and sometimes cruel--but she makes a passionate, sharp-tongued tour guide in this book about fleeing the ordinary in search of something beautiful.” —Salon
“Charming, restless, idiosyncratic hybrid of classic family road trip and probing personal essay where the roadside attractions include Pompeii, the Basilica of Saint Francis and Etruscan tombs, and the big questions on aesthetics and truth and human nature that such sites elicit are smartly explored . . . improvisatory and sensual.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Unlike day-tripping tourists, the thoughtful visitor doesn't know in advance what will seize her attention. A basket of bread and tomatoes, a Raphael Madonna, a storm that breaks with terrible beauty over the Ligurian coast, the progressively gothic hostelries through which the travelers wend their way home: All are fleetingly illumined by Cusk's exquisite prose, though none more hauntingly than the predawn English countryside, "like a sleeping baby . . . somehow new and unmarked,'' from which they set off for their summer abroad.” —Boston Globe
“Cusk takes us from Tuscany and Umbria south to Naples and Capri, writing throughout in the present tense, which makes the journey more immediate, and in the minimalist shorthand of a Raymond Carver short story: ‘The fireflies scatter in drifts, like embers'; ‘There is a bang at the door: It is a man.' There are several nice takes on food, history and landscape, and splendid observations on artists, as when she writes of Cimabue, that ‘he restored to the painted human form its softness and mortality, its animal nature and the grandeur of its emotion.” —Providence Journal
“British novelist Rachel Cusk's The Last Supper is a perceptive account of the pleasures and perils that resulted from uprooting her family from England to the Italian countryside for a winter” —Travel + Leisure, "Great Summer Reading"

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