Book Reviews

A Life’s Work is a work of refreshing candor, beautiful

I opened a bottle of scent and the fragrance first lurched at me with urgency. Peculiar, making me think if it is for me. But after a stroll when I sniffed it again I realized it is to my liking. It had changed its course to mellow and warm- the final attempt to lure me in. Rachel Cusk’s books are like opening these scent bottles. One is never too sure if they’d like it or how much, but once whiffed it will certainly cage you, her writing- long sentences that convey far too much, descriptive wording like brewing a tea, slow but sightful- almost always makes the reader keen and some like me, satisfied: what it needs is time to sediment and form its layer exuding the fragrance of fine writing.

Motherhood is not a very easy subject to talk about. It is a heart-patch that can induce guilt or hurt very easily. And yet, women who do that are for me at once, sensitive and courageous. Courageous, because it can be perceived offensively, in a much more judgemental tone, and yet here the author takes the plunge to write about a phase that separates you from yourself and sees you making the return journey in due course of time. In her memoir, A Life’s work she talks extensively about the aspects of motherhood that start with pregnancy- 40 weeks of research for every phase. She lays bare her thoughts- fears, experiences, decisions- on the glorification of breastfeeding. Her pun game is top-notch at the particular segment where she fights with herself before bottle feeding her baby- a situation staged like committal of a crime and self-inadequacy. With the help of literature, she relates her scenarios as a mother. Inserting, Proust, Edith Warton’s The house of mirth, Jane Eyre, and Coleridge’s work are proofs of her artistic demeanor and contemplative writing to pour out her mothering thoughts so well.

The wordsmith that Cusk is, her writing flair takes a more humorous turn in A Life’s Work than in Outline. Her capability to describe a scenario and slip in the witty parts with varying intensity and how she’d like them to appear on the page- plain, outright, blithe – is impressionable.
A Life’s Work is a work of refreshing candor, beautiful.

Because the book typically focuses on motherhood, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea as the relatability factor solely comes when one has passed through the phase. My journey of pregnancy and motherhood was very different from what Cusk writes about hers but I always knew where she was coming from. And well, the writing is just something I will hold on to for a long while- re-reading some favorite lines.