A short review of Transit by Rachel Cusk

transit-jpg

Jonathan Cape

Published 2016

Transit follows writer Faye and her return to London after the break-up of her marriage. She buys a dilapidated flat in an up-and-coming area and attempts to renovate it, much to the annoyance of the neighbours in the flat below. Intertwined with this are the stories of various people she comes in contact with; a former flame who reminisces about their old life together, her hairdresser and builder, a friend who works in the fashion industry and a visit to a male cousin and his dysfunctional friends and family. The novel deals with such themes as the break-up of relationships and marriages, responsibility, sense of place, art and literature.

I am going to be honest in my review and say that I really didn’t know what to make of this book. That does not happen often. Usually I have a clear idea in my mind, when a I review a book, what I want to say about it, but this one I had a hard time with.

I have been trying to decide what it is about this book that has left me so puzzled. Partly it is has to do with the lack of any real plot-line. At times it felt, during the reading of this book, as if I was wading through mud with no clear end in sight.

Partly it was the detached voice of the narrator, not part of the story but seemingly outside of it, a passive receiver of other’s tales. She’s almost a blank canvas onto which others are painting their stories and we only really know her in relation to others.  Ultimately I found her to be something of an enigma.  Faye acts almost like a counselling allowing others to unburden themselves all the while attempting to deal with her own sense of alienation and loneliness.

Most of the characters that the narrator meets, feel invisible or are involved in the service economy providing services to people who never really see them such as the hairdresser, the builder and his assistant. Everyone in the novel is trying to form connections with others and are struggling.  It is very much a character driven rather than plot-driven novel. But what also left me slightly puzzled was the disjointed nature of the stories she’s told that felt only marginally related to the title of the novel. These are people in transit, that much was clear but the novel really didn’t go anywhere. Perhaps that was the point of the novel but it felt unsatisfying to read.

3 stars

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