Arlington Park: A Novel Paperback – Dec 26 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this devastating ensemble novel, Whitbread Award–winner Cusk (Saving Agnes) exposes the roiling inner lives and not-so-quiet desperation of young mothers in the well-to-do London suburb Arlington Park. The book's single day begins with an epic rainstorm that wakes part-time private-school English teacher Juliet Randall, who spent the previous evening at a wealthier neighbor's home and was told, in front of husband Benedict, "You want to be careful.... You can start to sound strident at your age." As Amanda Clapp strains to maintain her house's empty perfection, a multi-kid play date gets out of control. Maisie Carrington feels "imprisoned for life" by her frosty, upper-crust childhood, and can barely contain her violent feelings toward her own daughters. Christine Lanham, a newcomer to the class distinction her marriage has brought her, abhors the hypocrisy that surrounds her, but knows she will never leave her family. The story line coils around each woman's home until it gathers the group for a drunken dinner party, where husbands express pleasure with their privilege while fretting that something feels amiss, and children, exhausted by their mothers' alternating neglect and desperate love, sleep like the dead—leaving the women holding hot coals of their silent insights. Their plight is an old story, but Cusk makes it incisively vivid. (Jan.)
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“Everything about Arlington Park is original and fearless.” ―Francine Prose, Bookforum
“Hideously funny . . . A novel with a sense of rightness at its core and a narrative intelligence so swift and piercing it can take your breath away.” ―The Boston Globe
“Her books are smart and deep, telling tales of urban life that are the twenty-first-century version of Austen or Thackeray. . . . Cusk's depictions and evaluations are spot-on, her language smooth and enthralling.” ―Baltimore Sun
“Cusk's glory is her style, cold and hard and devastatingly specific, empathetic but not sympathetic.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Cusk's frank acknowledgment of maternal ambivalence is rare and wonderful.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“Sharp wit and commanding prose.” ―The New York Times
“Devastating . . . Incisively vivid.” ―Publishers WeeklySee all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Not nearly as enjoyable as Cusk's previous work, THE LUCKY ONES. The women in ARLINGTON PARK are lucky their husbands put up with them.
I don't know what Rachel Cusk is trying to say; I honestly felt bewildered by it all. It is very difficult to continue reading a book when you cannot stand a single character; these women were repulsive to me - thoughtless, insensitive, unloving. It's one thing to be drained by motherhood and domesticity; that isn't the issue. These women read as though they would have been despicable regardless; as single women, married women, mothers; it doesn't matter. They just aren't nice people.
It makes me wonder if Rachel Cusk is clinically depressed; the photo she chose for the back jacket is shockingly bad: lank greasy hair, dull facial expression. She's a talented writer - I hope she gets a really good editor.
Her idea, to explore the internal lives of several women on this particular day is good except the women she creates are all bitter, cold, loveless people who have it all and still complain. We first meet Juliet, a school teacher with a husband, two children, a nice house and yet she inexplicably feels she's been "murdered" by her husband. Why? He doesn't stop her from working. He pitches in with the kids. How does he murder her? We never know. Yet this angry worldview is something that Juliet feels duty-bound to pass onto her students. Other characters are even less sympathetic; Amanda is a compulsively neat housewife who tells her preschool age son to "shut up" when he asks questions and when she does give him an explanation we're told "she wanted to hammer him over the head with it". Later, when another child gets magic marker on her sofa her reaction is equally violent: "'I could kill you!' she whispered. 'I could kill you!' She threw him back down on the cushions" How on earth are we supposed to sympathize with this woman? Or other "protagonists" are equally unlikeable. Each is discontent and expects the world to bend over backwards to accomodate her.
I'm giving this book 2 stars for some nice prose here and there. When she's not lifting her phrasing from other writers Rachel Cusk crafts her prose nicely. Still this book isn't enoyable or particularly enlightening.
It actually is possible to be a mother and a wife and feel happiness and love.
Bitter, negative, rambling....