The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy
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The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy

3.06 of 5 stars 3.06  ·  rating details  ·  108 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Casting off a northern winter and an orderly life, a family decides to sell everything and go to Italy--to search for art and its meanings, for freedom from routine, for a different path into the future. Their three-month journey around the Italy of Raphael and rented villas, the Piero della Francesca trail and the tourist furnaces of Amalfi, the simple glories of pasta an...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Picador (first published May 1st 2009)
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Kasey Jueds
My sense is that there are lots of books out there about going to Italy (or Provence) and how wonderful it is, and how it can change your life. And though I haven't read any of those books, one thing I love about Rachel Cusk's memoir is that I am sure it's completely unlike all of them. The way she looks at the world is so weird (in the best possible way)--this is evident in her novels and also in this beautiful, strange, wondrous travel book. It's so hard to describe her style; there's somethin...more
Rachel
The Last Supper is a memoir by Rachel Cusk of a summer spent in Italy with her husband and two children. I could not connect with the author in this book at all. She shares no background information or any personal information about her or her family and writes in a very detached, dreamy style. She never even refers to her daughters by name, just "the children". In reading a memoir, I expect to be able to form some kind of connection with the author and I felt none with Rachel.

Her metaphors are...more
Rachel
I have read more than my share of glowing travel narratives about Italy, and I expected much the same from this book--rosy observations on the countryside, the people, rapturous chapters about the glories of olive oil and pasta. This book was not what I expected, and I loved that about it. Rachel Cusk wrote about an extended family vacation in Italy, but this is not really a story about a family--they were sort of vaguely there, but the book is more of an an exploration of the experience through...more
Lynda
A billboard in Bristol, England asking the author, "Is there more to life than this?' seems to be all it takes for her and her family, who are "afflicted with restlessness and with a love of the unknown", to sell their belongings and move to Italy for 3 months of culture, art and epicurean delights.
Cusk’s memoir starts off rather slowly with no formal introduction to her husband and 2 young daughters. They are unnamed and have been given no character traits nor personalities. I would have liked...more
Mara
A more straightforward memoir than the mothering one or the divorce one, maybe a less fraught subject, so less hiding? And the sense of this real person who gets competitive at tennis and yells at her kids, sometimes when they don't deserve it, who feels alienated in most groups of people; I am grateful for this human-ness in the midst of achey beautiful passages and phrases that I copy out into my journal. And it doesn't hold together as a single travel narrative so much or maybe I just had to...more
Rebekah
A book about a woman fed up with routine and antsy to find some freedom from the realities of average life - she packs up her husband and two girls to travel from England to Italy for a summer. This is a type of travel journal; a first for me into this type of book.

In the beginning I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book. The style was a bit choppy and heavy on metaphors. But as the pages began to fly by at a much faster pace than I'd anticipated, I realized how much I was enjoying Cusk'...more
George
Having read reviews on the British press I was eager to read this book. I was not disappointed, it is an uneven gem of travelogue very idiosyncratic and subjective. The use of the English language is erudite and complex and that may dissuade some readers who are more middle-brow.

I did not have handy a map of Italy to follow visualy the path that Rachel Cusk and her family took, visiting such diverse places as Florence, Naples, Pompey and Rome among others. The author introduces those places thro...more
Nancy
Ugh. Remember the guy on Channel 9 in the '80s with the big afro who painted a nature picture each episode. "Fluffy little clouds"...he bugged me, his voice really bugged me, but I couldn't help myself from tuning in - JUST TO REMEMBER WHY HE BUGGED ME.

This book has the same effect and why I keep picking it up. The author's sentences are cumbersome, overly full and annoying. Example describing a beach scene: "There is a couple nearby, American, young & blond & groomed as gods. The boy ha...more
Bookmarks Magazine
"Without doubt, Rachel Cusk is a talented writer and one of the sharpest commentators working in fiction today. In the tradition of Frances Mayes, Peter Mayle, E. M. Forster, and D. H. Lawrence -- writers enchanted by the siren call of Italy -- Cusk records her observations in The Last Supper. The book works best in the travelogue passages, when the author dissects details with surgical precision. Many sections, though, devolve into a less-coherent analysis of Cusk's own plight, a terminal case...more
Roberta
Cusk's book crosses boundaries, not only of countries but of ways of seeing as an individual. Her melding of the artist's eye and passion with the incomparable works of the Masters as she travels Italy is inspiring. Wish I could think of a less hackneyed word, but it's the truth. The Last Supper made me remember why I love to write, travel and soak in everything that's there.
That Cusk was able to connect as deeply as she does with the country and its art deserves note because she was not alone....more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
This book arrived in the mail a few weeks ago from LibraryThing. It's a memoir of a time the author spent traveling around Italy with her husband and two young children. I like travel stories, usually, but this one was quite different from my typical travel story. Cusk seems removed from the story, aloof, distant. Her children are not named, for example, and do not feel like people but concepts. Cusk is vague about the reasons for her trip to Italy and even more unclear about what she took away...more
Shirley
Jun 01, 2010 Shirley marked it as to-read
It took forever to get to what the writer wanted to tell me. The first pages were like she took a class in how to make one word fill a sentence. I don't believe I have ever seen any word embelished so much and there are so many of them. ugghhh
If she had started with the actual meat of the book I would have been much happier.
We'll see.
I gave it a valiant effort but this book is too much trouble to read not enjoyable for me.
I have placed it on a tbr later list and I will put it in a stack that...more
Tessa
I should love this book, since relocating to Italy for a few months is one of my favorite fantasies, and Cusk is interested in many of the same places and pictures that I am. But I could not bear her tone, her disdain for just about everybody she meets, the gloomy superiority that she seems to feel her sensibility entitles her to. I seem to remember liking something else she wrote...was she perhaps suffering from clinical depression when she went to Italy? Or is she just one of those people who...more
Emily Simnitt
This is no "Under the Tuscan Sun." The author is grouchier, but I loved her style and her ideas about art, beauty, knowledge and gelatto.
Laura
Great idea for a book, but the text is so wordy and frankly just boring. She rambles on and on. This book could have been so much better.
Lisa Lesyshen
Oh why can't we all live in Italy!!
Betty-Anne
I expected to like ‘The Last Supper – A Summer in Italy' much more than I ultimately did. When I first read the blurb on the back, it seemed to promise everything I would enjoy … a personal-style memoir, a family trip to an exotic locale – namely Italy, with its heritage of wonderful food, beautiful locations and inspiring art. However, the book never lived up to that promise.

Rachel Cusk undertook the summer trip to Italy with her husband and two young children as a way to stave off the boredom...more
Siobhan
What a horrible read. This author made me so mad reading this book. She hasn't got a nice thing to say about anybody that she meets along her magical journey in Italy. She doesn't go into any detail about her family who are travelling with her. She refers to them as: husband and children. All we know is that she has 2 daughters. It's like as if that was one of the conditions that her family allowed her to write this book about their journey, they must know how she describes people.
It was so unc...more
Sarah
"It occurs to me that it is not for his godliness alone that the pilgrims come to worship Francis. His story, born as it is out of human psychology, is emblematic of the same consciousness that was simultaneously struggling to express itself in art. I am nothing; I am everything. Perhaps, after all, the pilgrims shush and glare at us for the same reason that we roll our eyes at them. It is the rise of the personal we are reverencing, in its different forms. It is meaning we have come for, of one...more
Kate
I just confessed to my addiction to travel memoirs in the review of "Buying a Piece of Paris." What can I say? My beloved Borders is closing and I stocked up on books last week. I have already finished two, including the last few pages of this one with my morning coffee. Unlike so many travel memoirs, this one is not especially lighthearted or whimsically entertaining. I don't even wish I could have been on their particular journey. But - Rachel Cuk is a very smart, thoughtful, observant person...more
Jennifer
This is the most elegant account I have read (and, believe me, I have read many) of time spent by a Brit in Italy. While Cusk provides a mediation on Italian culture (especially art), this is really a story about how we oftentimes need to remove ourselves from the demands of daily life to find what is truly important, to make a change, to feel, or to find a different life. Cusk isn't running away from herself, per se, but trying to overcome the disease she feels living the traditional sub/urban...more
Danie Cutter
Great as a tourist guide excepting that there's no index so it would be difficult to pick the required section. And while the idea appeals as a book it doesn't deliver. It's full of facts and a statement of characters met but no actual discussion around them, no fleshing out of their being, they just are.

I love Italy but this book went to places I've visited and saw them from a distance, the writer stated an emotional connection but again it was just stated in cold hard facts and there was none...more
Barb
"The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy" was an account of the author's summer in Italy with her family. I like Cusk's writing normally, so I had high hopes for this book. While I was a little disturbed by the present tense descriptions of their travels and activities (present tense in a memoir is exceedingly difficult to pull off) the book was written well enough. What I found lacking in the book was actual passion for her subject. She goes into great (almost excruciating) detail about things so yo...more
Shelley
First travel-lit book about Italy that I found bland and joyless. Ironic considering it describes the author's "quixotic" journey to discover beauty. It certainly can't be found in her writing. This is a personal story - even though she brings her two daughters and her husband along, they remain nameless and faceless. Two sections - A Game of Tennis and GianFranco's Store were terrific because they described some local characters and added some colour to the story. I took offence to her unabas...more
Ted
'Twas a nice escape, tying into memories I have from when I spent time in Italy. They often went on pilgrimages to places in Umbria, where I spent the majority of my time in Italy while studying abroad: Assisi, Cortona, Arezzo, Sansepolcro (we shared the secret of this place; hardly any other tourists make it there and for good reason!) She described in words many of the masterpieces I saw and have only visual memories of. Through her words, I was able to see these pieces in my mind again as if...more
Carmen
I had expected this book to be more about the people they met and things they did than it was. That was my dissapointment. Rachel, her husband and two young daughters go to live in Italy for three months. She spent most of the spring there. I did like some of her imagery. ex. "we walked through the hot bruise-colored evening down the Spanish steps." Sometimes I thought of the character in "under the Tuscan Sun" when I read images like this, the scene where she writes a travel-mate's postcard for...more
Bill
I enjoy reading almost any book on Italy. I ended up quite ambivilant about Rachel Cusk's effort. I guess that the original premise of a three month forced march for her children into Italy's art, language, and culture was too much for me to swallow. Italy is far more than trying to learn the language and assessing great works of art. I think Frances Mayes and Peter Mayle are far better options for appreciating what Italy is all about.
Donna
Beautifully written book about a family stay in Italy for a few months. Cusk writes in a poetic style and takes you through the lives of some of the famous Italian artists.
Lauren
Ok.... i like the cover. i liked the idea, I kept thinking that there woudl be something else that would pull me into the story... woman packs up family to travel around italy... sounds good, right? but nothing really happens, you don't get to know the characters, and the language is just sooooo taxing... loooooooong run on descriptive sentances that aren't even interesting in their metaphors.... not my favorite
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RACHEL CUSK is the Whitbread Award–winning author of two memoirs, including The Last Supper, and seven novels, including Arlington Park, Saving Agnes, The Temporary, The Country Life, and The Lucky Ones. She lives in Brighton, England.
More about Rachel Cusk...
Arlington Park The Country Life A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother The Lucky Ones The Bradshaw Variations

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