Rachel Cusk – Outline


Rachel Cusk’s novel, Outline is unique as it is simultaneously about everything and nothing at the same time. It was also shortlisted on the 2014 edition of the Goldsmiths prize. In other words this is a novel that challenges the notion of a novel.

Outline does not really follow a linear structure. I would say that it comprises of ten setpieces in which the narrator goes to Greece in order to teach a writing class to Greek students and with each person she is involved in a philosophical discourse.

In order to link the ten discourses Cusk uses the same characters but with each encounter the narrator learns something new. These discourses mostly consist of characters relating their past mistakes, usually with their wives and children. Although most characters believe in love as the strongest emotion, the main protagonist starts to question its validity. She then goes on to question the loss of innocence in children, the aftermath of making a mistake. There are even discussions about animals and the role a common sight on the way to work may affect one’s well being.

Outline is a deceptively simple but there’s depth and the contents will remain with you for a while. I do have a major gripe with the novel and that it tends to ramble in places. The narratives involving a person the narrator meets on a plane are excellent, so is the dinner with the author but the writing class scenes could have used some editing but this does not mean I disliked the book but there were places which I found excessive.

Outline forms part of a trilogy ; Transit is out and the third part Kudos will be out in May of this year so I am curious to see how Cusk will continue the themes present in Outline.