Saturday, 4 April 2009

In the Fold by Rachel Cusk

I was totally gripped by this book, even though nothing much actually happens! The book starts with university friends Adam and Micheal visiting Micheal's large country home, known as Egypt, for his younger sister's eighteenth birthday celebrations. This serves to elucidate the slightly odd set up of this family, not least being the Micheal's fathers first and second wife seemingly so close. Adam is slightly awed by the well to do and bohemian attitude of the Hanburys, and the way he seems to be taken in without question.

From here we fast forward years. Adam is married (incidentally into a similar wealthy family to the Hanburys) with a child and living in a slightly unsatisfactory marriage with a woman who is not content with her life since having a child. This is probably the most action packed chapter in the novel, when the balcony in his town house collapses, nearly crushing him. I can't help but feel that this is overt symbolism for the crumbling of his marriage. When he gets a call from Adam, he jumps at the chance to go and spend a week with him lambing at the farm at Egypt.

From here the novel becomes a exposition of family relationships, modern life and character study. Adam lives in Georgian town house in bath, whereas Micheal lives in a modern housing estate. During his tour of the house by Adam's wife, Lisa, Micheal is struck by the sterile nature of the house and the estate, and therefore the people

"I did not dislike her, though I saw she was suffering from a madness of convenience. She had decided to concern herself with the morality of inanimate objects"

He also seems ultimately concerned with her attitude towards the children. Due to his wife's seeming inability to cope with the child on her own, he has taken Hamish with him to the Hanburys, and he is left with Lisa whilst the men are lambing. At various points he comments on the way she always has sweets available to keep children quiet, and the omnipresence of television.

"While preparing to take me on the tour of the house she had placed the children in front of the screen, switched it on, and then, like an anaesthetist, waited fr a count of ten, before the end of which they had happily vacated their bodies."

However, social commentary aside, there is a climax to this book. Its very quiet and really involves a long conversation in the kitchen at Egypt, but it prompts everybody to think about their lives and Adam goes home in a pensive state of mind. His absence means everything has changed back home and his already distant wife is even more distant.

I know I haven't done this book justice but it's really hard to write about. I loved it, found it quite depressing, and didn't think I got everything out of it I should have done all at the same time.


Savidge Reads said...

Ooh this sounds good, I have seen this a few times and I have picked it up and put it back whilst be tempted I shall take it next time. I like family dramas in fiction that are also a family study!

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