Outline is certainly divisive – two friends told me they found it a struggle to read, two others said they loved it … but their partners hated it. I get it. If you’re here for a Novel, with a capital N – a structured, unbroken, sequential tale with a definite beginning, middle and end, you might find it a frustrating read. If, like me, you’ve just finished Susan Sontag’s intentionally vague The Volcano Lover, you’ll find Outline (Rachel Cusk, Faber Paperback) positively orthodox. Which is not to say there isn’t a flowing narrative, in fact it’s more of a page-turner than many of the more traditional books I’ve read, and the cadence is pleasantly lilting.

The protagonist – whose name we hear only once, in passing – is out of her comfort zone. She’s visiting Greece, only briefly, to teach a writing course. Through her dialogues with strangers and estranged acquaintances – and from what she chooses to hear in those conversations – we sense that the life she’s momentarily separated from is in turmoil too. Her thoughts are disjointed – she’s perhaps a bit dissociated from her life. And so the prose guides us into the same mindset – at times incredibly lucid, but broadly speaking neither here nor there. I, for one, am looking forward to more of the same in Transit and Kudos, the remaining two-thirds of the trilogy.

By Olivia McDowell

 

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