The Bradshaw Variations: A Novel
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The Bradshaw Variations: A Novel

3.08 of 5 stars 3.08  ·  rating details  ·  212 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Since quitting work to look after his eight-year-old daughter, Alexa, Thomas Bradshaw has found solace and grace in his daily piano study. His pursuit of a more artistic way of life shocks and irritates his parents and in-laws. Why has he swapped roles with Tonie Swann, his intense, intellectual wife, who has accepted a demanding full-time job? How can this be good for Ale...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2009)
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Apparently some people deem Rachel Rusk too clever in her books. I get that, somewhat, in her past work, like In the Fold. In that one she brandishes here cleverness with long sentences and very, very long conversations. Here, in her new work, she has tempered such lengthiness, somewhat. Sentences are still long, but for the most part they are now shorter and more immediate in their directness and mood.

Basically her novel is about the lives of the Bradshaw clan, particularly Thomas and his wife...more
I enjoyed "The Bradshaw Variations" but somehow it doesn't hit the spot, because the characters don't have enough space to develop properly. There are so many different voices and viewpoints from the wider Bradshaw family that it's hard to focus on the central narrative of Thomas Bradshaw and his wife Tonie. Thomas has given up his job to allow Tonie to become head of the English department at a lesser university, and (incomprehensibly, so far as their respective parents and siblings are concern...more
"September is a skewering place, the heart, where the pin of routine is thrust in" (7).
"His heart clenches, just as it does when the music gains its highest note, grasping and grasping out of its own confusion until it reaches its mark and the screw of emotion is turned. The confusion, he sees, is necessary, for it is what the resolution is born from" (9).
"It is steep, so that the bottom looks remote from the top, the hazy geometric spill of buildings levelling out below with its drone of traffi...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Although a little of such stuff goes a long way for me, I do in fact quite enjoy the occasional literary-oriented novel, one that eschews plot developments almost entirely to instead exist as merely a complex character study; take for example veteran character author Rachel Cusk's latest, The Bradshaw Var...more
Kasey Jueds
I have loved Rachel Cusk ever since Grace recommended The Country Life to me many years ago, and this novel, her newest, didn't disappoint me. Like the last couple of her books I've read, including Arlington Park, this one deals largely with parenting, with parents trying to hold onto their identities or reinvent themselves after having children... but in a larger sense it's also about people struggling to understand their lives. Everything in Rachel Cusk's books--moments, converstions, pieces o...more
Maya Panika
The style is all; richly metaphorical, terrifically dense and complex - this book should be read for the sheer enjoyment of the beauty of the writing because there isn’t really any story, at heart it’s a character study, a group of normal lives, woven together by the mundane and everyday.

I found the characters got lost in all the writing. They sit in the great web of it, unable to move much under the weight of metaphor which ultimately left a great coldness around them. I never felt any attachm...more
Maya Rock
I like that there are fewer metaphors and the plot moved more briskly than other Cusk books. I also really enjoyed the writing and insights into life. However, I have to say, I am getting tired of the analysis of domestic life. It's one of those situations where she is depicting something that is boring and it makes the book boring. Also, I was enjoying this book much more until it got slotted into "Affairs Only End Badly" and then, even worse, into what should be my new subcategory "Affairs Are...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Cusk's searing, incisive novels have earned comparisons to Virginia Woolf's for their astute recreations of women's inner lives as they collide with society's expectations. Unfortunately, most critics concluded that Cusk's seventh novel does not live up to the sum of its parts. Despite vivid characters, crisp prose, and sharp psychological insights, the plot lacks tension, while subplots and minor characters drop from the narrative without explanation, and the Bradshaws seem strangely unconvinci...more
I was so excited to win this book on Goodreads. The story involves the various crisis within the extended Bradshaw family over the course of a year. The style of writing is rich, detailed, hugely comprehensive and deeply thoughtful but a magnificent style does not ensure that a book will be loved. Given all that: I still was not drawn to the characters. There were so many sinister overtones lurking in every chapter that I felt apprehension turning to the next page. There was no joy in any of the...more
I thought The Bradshaw Variations was an incredibly moving book. Cusk's remarkable way of identifying and describing emotions allowed me to relate to each character in some way. While they were all connected, the characters were also painfully isolated by their own unique circumstances. As Cusk turned the spotlight on each one, I was able to understand Olga's homesickness, Tonie's restlessness, and Thomas's yearn for truth, etc. I hope someone is already writing the screenplay based on this fant...more
this was a little gem and maybe I should have rated it more highly only none of the characters are at all likable. As if all of their faults are fully on view and no redeeming qualities are exposed; none. I found I could not say I really liked it but rather appreciated the author's cleverness. I felt it was more revealing for the author rather than her characters. And I won't think about any of them at all now that I finished reading it.

I am slightly curious about her other books but maybe not t...more
To be honest I'm not sure why I chose this book. I was in the library and quickly needed something to read off the shelf (usually I think about it more carefully, and order online and pick up from the library several days later), and this sort of jumped out at me. I've read 2 or 3 of Cusk's earlier novels and liked them but I'm currently put off by her terribly dreary writings in the mainstream press. But, is it wrong to be put off someone's books just because you get the impression that they're...more
Melanie Faith
Lyrical and beautiful prose. I purchased my copy in a bin at a dollar store, so I came to the novel with very few expectations; what I found was a gem of a story. I can see the comparisons to Virginia Woolf's work, although Cusk's prose is a bit more succinct and measured. In Woolf's work as well as Cusk's I felt as if I'd opened a door and plunged not only into the characters' surroundings but also into their inner-most struggles and thoughts. As I read, I couldn't help thinking that many of th...more
Jayne Charles
I always know what I’m getting into with a Rachel Cusk novel – lots of high brow musing, a sort of intellectualising of everyday life, and some moments that speak perfect truth about families and the way people interact. This book was no exception. The only difficulty I find is that for every moment of crystal-clarity there are paragraphs of musings that I could not comprehend even if I had several lifetimes in which to ponder over them.

Similar to Arlington Park in its obsessive analysis and fe...more

I won this book on a first-reads giveaway and although I think the description on the back cover of the book needs serious attention, I really liked it. I feel apologetic saying that because of the lukewarm response this book as gotten on Goodreads, but I shall not let other reviews color my first impressions.

Usually, I don't like and try to avoid books that are just about stuff. Books that are just about people's lives but are magnificently well written....more
I expected The Bradshaw Variations by Rachel Cusk to be much better than it is. It begins well, and every now and then I thought this is really good, but at times it seems to get lost in itself. It� s about the life of a family � the Bradshaws, mainly concentrating on Thomas and his wife Tonie � over the course of a year. Not a lot happens on the surface but underneath everyone� s life is in turmoil and change.[return][return]Thomas is the middle brother. Howard is his older brother, married to...more
Jim Leckband
Jun 16, 2012 Jim Leckband rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Virginia Woolf fans - you know who you are.
Bad Sign: "She wonders why everyone here is so formless and anonymous. Their bodies look lumpy in the dusk, their faces featureless and indifferent as stones. The lack of excitement almost frightens her." (p. 198)

When a reader reads the above lines and retorts, "Yeah, I know what you mean, I'm kinda there myself now that you mention it..." then there is a problem.

I'm totally willing to man-up (is that the correct usage for "man-up"? I've never really "manned-up" in anything, or been exhorted to...more
I love how Rachel Cusk dives straight under the surface of life, and nowhere more so than in this novel, a subtle examination of what it's like to be English and middle class. She creates just enough distance between character and reader that we feel a little like observers from outer space, examining creatures we rather like but are not entirely sure we understand. Full of delicious details that transcend the events and dilemmas of a fairly bourgeois family set up - everything feels sharper, mo...more
To be honest, I would have never picked up this book had it not been for the Goodreads book giveaway. But now that I've finally gotten around to reading it, I'm glad I did.

The novel was very well written, with numerous lines and passages that stick out as both meaningful and simply interesting. The plot was about family ties, something I've never read about, but was very insightful to say the least. However, I didn't find any of the characters all that likeable. This could be because I couldn't...more
There was a lot of hype around this book last year, and I was actually surprised to be able to buy a 1-Euro copy of it on ebay. Usually, the "good" books stay expensive much longer (and I really can't afford to spend 40 Euro on every book I read. You can flame me for this, internets, as you are so keen on doing. *g*)

Anyway, the book. Let's, once more, take a look at what other people said.

Description on back of the book:
"A powerful drama about how the family life we build will always be an echo...more
Maria Ramos
I was disappointed with this book. I read an excellent essay by the author in Granta and decided to seek out her fiction. It was told from multiple points of view (about 8), and it wasn't obvious what some of these points of view added to the story. All of the characters seemed more or less the same, it had very little narrative arc. There was some very good writing and some keen insights, and it wasn't so bad that I had a hard time finishing it. The main story was about a couple who decides tha...more
Diane Mora
Although the writing is beautiful with evocative language and imagery, I found this overall to be a disheartening read. It is primarily a collection of random glimpses into the psyches of a group of characters who are related to one another by blood or marriage, but not by any discernible affection. All seem to be relentlessly self-obsessed; they float through privileged yet mundane lives, pitying themselves for their own purposelessness, rehearsing negativity, mired in disappointment. Though at...more
As I had received this book as part of First Reads, I was basing my interest on the jacket cover description. I don't think the story ever quite matches the jacket text, however I still enjoyed the book for what it was; a microscopic study of an extended family and the day to day events that shape who we are in relation to others.

Parts of this book were so beautifully written or relationships and fleeting individual thoughts so cleverly worded that I would begin to really anticipate something b...more
a refreshing change from a lot of my recent reading.enjoyable, engrossing account of a year in the lives of the Bradshaws told from the perspectives of various family members - the elderly mother, the three sons, their wives. Their lives, habits and histories gradually unfold as we read.The title is taken from a musical concept and music plays an important part in the life of at least one of the major characters but I felt, as a totally non-musical person, that some of the musical analogies were...more
Mary Beth
I generally enjoy her writing, although it requires - at least for me - paying close attention. Usually, I find a few paragraphs that make me say, "That's SO right" or some related exclamation, even if the book overall is not delightful. This book was not her best work, to my mind, and some awfully depressive characters, which made it a bit tough going. Her portrayal of families is a bit dismal. Certainly the Bradshaw's have a lot of angst. But heck, most families have a lot of angst if you dig...more
This book is about the everyday life of 3 brothers and their families. They all seem to be bored by their bourgeois life and on the verge of depression, even though they really do not have a real reason for that.

I found quite irritating the feelings of boredom and discontent that the characters show in every aspect of their life. Getting a promotion, running a successful start-up or having 3 healthy children is not enough fot them. What a waste of energy and happiness!

Cusk writing style is as c...more
Jan 27, 2014 Lesley marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
I found I never really cared about any of the characters in this book. The description of the book - at least what was on the uncorrected proof - and the book itself were nothing alike. Whoever wrote the description found humor in the story/writing. I haven't a clue where. The people who populate this story are flat and uninteresting and ultimately not much happens in this story. I read it waiting to find out when the story would begin but I got to the end wondering why it was chosen to be publi...more
Mohamad Ali
I found this book boring, but the characters were portrayed very clearly. It also had very nice and clear definitions and opinions on everyday life activities as art. Yet, it just didn't make me have the "I want to know more" feeling while reading it.
At first I thought I wasn't going to finish this book but it, too, was short (234 pages) and I wanted to see how it all
turned out. How it could be tied together and ended. There wasn't a character I liked. Not even the 8 year old little
girl. You have to like English novelists (which I do). I find the characters so "foreign" even though we speak the same
language (sort of). At first I was lost with all the players but in then end I'm glad I finished it.
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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 Saving Agnes

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