The Country Life

The Country Life

3.6 8
by Rachel Cusk
     
 

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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Stella Benson answers a classified ad for an au pair, arriving in a tiny Sussex village that's home to a family that is slightly larger than life. Her hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them is low and remote. It soon becomes clear that Stella falls short of even the meager

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Overview

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Stella Benson answers a classified ad for an au pair, arriving in a tiny Sussex village that's home to a family that is slightly larger than life. Her hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them is low and remote. It soon becomes clear that Stella falls short of even the meager specifications her new role requires, most visibly in the area of "aptitude for the country life." But what drove her to leave her home, job, and life in London in the first place? Why has she severed all ties with her parents? Why is she so reluctant to discuss her past? And who, exactly, is Edward?

The Country Life is a rich and subtle novel about embarrassment, awkwardness, and being alone; about families, or the lack of them; and about love in some peculiar guises. Rachel Cusk's widely praised novel is a captivating tale of one young woman's adventures in self-discovery.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A sophisticated confection . . . For this delightful novel about the governess from hell, maybe only the word 'wicked' will do."—The New York Times Book Review

"A brilliant oxymorona serious farce so subtle that its command of the reader must called insidius . . . Bright, candid, and modestly humorous, Stella Benson lures us into complicity . . . Cusk's ability to keep us interested in innumerable human collisions is uncanny. We may finally learn Stella's secrets, but she remains as fascinatingly indeciperable as anyone we know."—The New Yorker

"Enchanting . . . A funny, modern Jane Eyre combined with an Anne Tyler-esque tale about escaping from the pressures of an unhappy urban life."—Newsday

"An oddly ingratiating social comedy . . . Smart, literate, offbeat, confiding . . . A pleasure."

—The Boston Globe

"Hilarious . . . Stella is strange because strangeness is part of the human condition; she's just a little more aware of it than most people."—Village Voice Literary Supplement

"Smart, charming, and often outright hilarious."—Entertainment Weekly

The New York Times Book Review

A sophisticated confection . . . For this delightful novel about the governess from hell, maybe only the word 'wicked' will do.
The New Yorker

A brilliant oxymoron--a serious farce so subtle that its command of the reader must called insidius . . . Bright, candid, and modestly humorous, Stella Benson lures us into complicity . . . Cusk's ability to keep us interested in innumerable human collisions is uncanny. We may finally learn Stella's secrets, but she remains as fascinatingly indeciperable as anyone we know.
Newsday

Enchanting . . . A funny, modern Jane Eyre combined with an Anne Tyler-esque tale about escaping from the pressures of an unhappy urban life.
The Boston Globe

An oddly ingratiating social comedy . . . Smart, literate, offbeat, confiding . . . A pleasure.
Village Voice Literary Supplement

Hilarious . . . Stella is strange because strangeness is part of the human condition; she's just a little more aware of it than most people.
Entertainment Weekly

Smart, charming, and often outright hilarious.
Megan Harlan
...[A] smartcharmingand often outright hilarious novel. —Entertainment Weekly
London Literary Review
That rare thing: a novel that makes you laugh out loud and that you put down with regret.
Tatler
Gracefully captures both the heart and mind.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Whitbread winner Cusk's first novel to appear in America is a touching, hilarious narrative by a modern-day Jane Eyre who renounces her life in London in the hope of finding an uncomplicated existence in the Sussex countryside. After a frenzied throwing out of "every vestige of love I had ever earned," unhappy, solitary Stella arrives in a tiny village to answer an advertisement for the job of caretaker to Martin Madden, the handicapped son of a rich farming family. Stella is prone to an "inner derangement": by the end of her second day among the nutty Maddens, she has broken out in hives, walked through a thorny hedge to avoid the front door, acquired a terrible sunburn and vomited. "It seemed incredible that so much could have gone wrong in so short a time," she laments. Cusk's hyperbolic descriptions of these and the many other calamities in Stella's everyday life demonstrate that her desire to "exist in a state of no complexity whatever" will prove to be impossible, especially since her surly charge, Martin, is, in her early estimation, an "evil dwarf." Cusk has a marvelous knack for revealing character in a few deft lines of dialogue; Stella herself is utterly lovable and her pain genuine. Later, when Stella and Martin have grown close, he tells her,"Everyone has to face things. It's the only way." Stella's particularly poignant attempt at facing her own inner oppression--and the surprising secrets in her past--will win Cusk many new readers, who will be eager to find her previous work, Saving Alice and The Temporary.
Penelope Lively
Here is Rachel Cusk flying a kite for au pair/governess literature and nicely abiding by the requirements... An adroitly paced narrative. -- The Independent
Lawrence Norfolk
An extraordinary blend of comedy and menace.... A tour-de-force against the odds and contains--just for the record--the most unexpected single line I have ever read in a work of fiction." -- The Guardian
Lisa Zeidner
The Country Life boasts pich-perfect tonal control and humor...a delightful novel about the governess from hell. -- The New York Times Book Review
Helen Dunmore
Like the novels of Evelyn Waugh or Stella Gibbons, The Country Life has a moral core, meticulously disguised by comedy. Cusk is a highly interesting, original writer, and, more unusually, she is a joy to read." -- The London Times
Sunday Telegraph
By turns funny and poignant... A pleasure to read...Cusk will reward you with gentle wit and a touching portrait of emotional vulnerability.
The Tatler
Gracefully captures both the heart and mind.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312252809
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
01/28/2000
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
413,298
Product dimensions:
5.94(w) x 7.88(h) x 0.87(d)

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