img_1238In July, I read Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk, a writer I’d never read before.  Upon finishing the novel, I immediately wanted to reread it.  Instead, I began a journey that has lasted four months:  reading each of Rachel Cusk’s books in the order she wrote them.  With this post, we come full circle, back to the book that started it all.

Watching Rachel Cusk develop as a writer was like watching a house being built.  With Arlington Park, her most recent book published in 2006, not only is the house built and decorated, but the author is now sitting by the fire with a latte.

Arlington Park is well written and digs deep into truth.  It’s about women–real and flawed.  It’s about marriage.  It’s about not only the lives we plan to live and choose to live, but the lives we end up living.  In an article written in 2005, Cusk said, “I remain fascinated by where you go as a woman once you are a mother, and if you ever come back.”  Arlington Park is one of the best books I read in 2008, and a new addition to my all-time favorite books.

The first sentence:  “All night the rain fell on Arlington Park.”  The falling of rain appears like a refrain throughout the book.  The rain falls on everyone in Arlington Park.  It falls on all of us.

The novel is divided into ten unmarked sections:  1-the rain fell; 2-Juliet; 3-Amanda; 4-Christine, Maisie and Stephanie at the mall; 5-Solly; 6-in the park/the rain had stopped; 7-Juliet; 8-Maisie; 9-Christine; and 10-party at Christine’s with Juliet, Maisie, and Maggie.

The first time I read it, I was so taken with Juliet that I didn’t want to leave her to switch to Amanda.  This time, it did not feel like a brusque change, but felt right.  Because it’s not just about one of us; it’s about all of us.

Here’s a little flavor of what you have to look forward to:

Juliet about a recording of a song by Ravel:  “The sound of it brought tears to Juliet’s eyes. It was the voice, that woman’s voice, so solitary and powerful, so–transcendent. It made Juliet think she could transcend it all, this little house with its stained carpets, its shopping, its flawed people, transcend the grey, rain-sodden distances of Arlington Park; transcend, even her own body, where bitterness lay like lead in the veins. She could open somewhere like a flower…open out all the petals packed inside her.”

Solly about her inability to communicate with a Japanese student renting out their extra room:  “…she became aware of how much of her lay shrouded in this inarticulable darkness.”

Solly:  “Suddenly she saw her life as a breeding ground, a community under a rock…There was a lack of light, a lack of higher purpose to it all. How could she have forgotten to find out what else there was? How could she have stayed there, under her rock, down in the mulch, and forgotten to take a look outside and see what was going on? All at once she didn’t know what she’d been thinking of.”