"Outline" by Rachel Cusk

Faye, a British writer, is spending a part of her summer in Athens teaching a writing course.  But it is the people she meets along the way that define her trip.  

There is something about Faye that people want to tell her their stories the moment she meets them.  It begins with the passenger sitting next to her on her flight.  He tells her of his childhood, failed marriages, and the boat he owns in Greece, which he offers to take her on.  And from there, she continues to meet people who tell her of their loves and loss, their hopes and dreams, their pasts and presents.  And though Faye is mostly the listener, her story slowly begins to emerge amongst the others.

Outline, by Rachel Cusk, is a collection of stories all told to the same person. It’s not a book that is plot-driven, but rather character-driven, told through conversations.

Upon beginning this book, I really didn’t think it would be a book for me.  I didn’t think I would care much for characters who just tell you their story, nor did I think that their stories would hold my interest.  Boy, was I wrong.  It’s a testament to Cusk’s writing that I was pulled into the book and quickly became invested in the characters even though they were people I would never care to meet in my own life.  In fact, if I were stuck next to them on a plane and had to listen to them, I would go crazy.  But here, it works.  Cusk is able to take you behind the words, behind the lives that the characters paint for themselves, and show you what is really going on.

Okay, yes, I did feel that there was a lot of pretension to this novel.  It’s one of those books that people are going to either love or hate.  Many people will sit and wonder just what is the point.  Many people will rave about its ability to capture our lives. But when you look at it from the standpoint of the teacher, Faye, who asks her students what they observed that day on their way to school, it makes a fantastic point.  What are we noticing of the world around us?  What is really happening around us?  Stories are everywhere, whether we realize it or not.  They’re there in the little things, in the monotony.  Everyone and everything has something to say.  At least, that’s what I took away from this book.

I thought the writing in this book was beautiful.  Cusk’s talent is something a lot of people would love to have.  Straight to the point, her ability to capture the surroundings of Greece using very little description was a highlight for me.  

As I mentioned, this is a book that people will either love or hate.  I can see why people love it and I can see why people hate it.  For me, it was an exercise in writing that I found myself caught up in.  For that, it was definitely worth the read.


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