Transit, Rachel Cusk
It’s pretty lazy of me, and unfair on the author, to leave ‘reviews’ until weeks after I’ve read the book. In this case it’s four months. Last year I stressed myself out hugely, and wasted time, and let other more important tasks falter, because I was trying to read and review so many books in a year. I couldn’t repeat that.
Then early on this year I realised the reviewing is important to me. It’s a record, a diary. I’ll forget I’ve ever read a single word if I don’t write something down about it. But I need to give myself a break on how much I can read. Yet the more you read, the more you want to read. I’m not sure this won’t ever not stress me out. I’ve started to count how many books I might have time to read before I die, and I’m not sure this is a healthy approach to reading, or to anything.
Anyway…you’ll be glad to hear that Faye, the protagonist of Transit, is a much tougher woman than I am. She buys a grotty Tufnell Park flat (at least I think it’s Tufnell Park, because everything else about the description of the place seems like it couldn’t be anywhere else) with terrifying neighbours, and sets about renovating it so she can live there with her two boys. It is the second in a trilogy by Rachel Cusk, after Outline, which I loved and wrote about last year.
Faye makes some rash decisions: buying a flat she knows little about, hiring a builder with questionable skills. But it all feels heady and liberating because they are her decisions, her messes to clear up. She teaches, bumps into a needy ex, has a terrible experience at a literary festival – the sort of experience that would mark a younger woman for life, but seems just one card in a particularly crappy hand for Faye.
Tension and foreboding stream through this novel, but so does possibility. This is something Faye has to get through. This is a stage. It is questionable why she’s gone back to an old haunt, and her meeting with the ex poses question about whether we can change, or only repeat the same mistakes in different ways, wearing different clothes.
I can’t remember what happens at the end so I’m going to go and do some more reading around it. I’m ashamed to realise this, but there it is. I write these reviews in the hope of holding on to some scraps of what I read in my life.
Transit is the sort of story I love: inaction that feels like everything is happening. It’s also a sort of memoir. It’s a novel, entirely, but so closely knit to Cusk’s experience that it is wholly her. So clever. So brave.
The final part of this trilogy Kudos came out earlier this year, and I’ve just seen a follow up of essays called Coventry came out two weeks ago. Missing stuff like this is what happens when you pass on the papers in order to write or work or spend time with your family.