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Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,506 ratings  ·  208 reviews
In the winter of 2009, Rachel Cusk's marriage of ten years came to an end. In the months that followed, life as she had known it came apart, 'like a jigsaw dismantled into a heap of broken-edged pieces'. 'Aftermath' chronicles this perilous journey as the author redefines herself as a single woman. ...more
Hardcover, 153 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Faber & Faber (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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It used to be rare for me to read through a writer’s oeuvre at once. I was afraid I would show an author I admired to disadvantage. With Rachel Cusk, each book is another, deeper aspect of the same theme so one may move from one to another, gorging intemperately on the ideas there and stagger out like a bee drunk on honey.

Honesty, she says, is critical. If one is going to pay any attention to an author, honesty about the human experience, however coruscating, is key. Men write about war which t
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Why was Cusk so reviled for writing this book? I honestly don't understand. I came to read this late - after reading Outline and Transit. I recognize that there is something oddly repellant (as in: distancing) about the persona who writes this account - but she/"Rachel" is not trying to be approachable nor is she catering to her reader. This is instead of a very literary, metaphor-laden, and deeply self-referential meditation on the aftermath of a marriage.

I saw a clear resemblance to the voice
MJ Nicholls
Feb 13, 2013 marked it as getting-even  ·  review of another edition
Never marry a writer, because when the inevitable happens, they can turn their distress into “art” and send you down as the flakiest twot of all time. Unless Hatchet Job winner Camilla Long is to be believed. ...more
Kasey Jueds
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I was predisposed to love this book, since I've loved all of Rachel Cusk's work (with the exception of one of her very early novels) thus far--I even pre-ordered it on Amazon, which I think I've done maybe once before. There are so many things I admire about RC's writing--many of which, oddly, are a lot easier to express negatively. Her memoirs aren't memoirs in the common sense of the word--Aftermath and her two previous memoirs, The Last Supper and A Life's Work, don't tell a story in any sort ...more
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
When Rachel Cusk’s marriage falls apart in the winter of 2009, her life feels like “a jigsaw dismantled into a heap of broken-edges pieces”. Her family, all of a sudden, has lost its bearings, its history and its story:

“Upstairs the children lie asleep in their beds: I imagine them there, like people sleeping in the cabin of a ship that has sailed off its course, unconscious of the danger they’re in. We have lost our bearings, lost our history, and I am the ship’s captain, standing full of dread
Sarahc Caflisch
Mar 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Not an unenjoyable read if you read this first: which I kind of agree with (the review AND that the reviewer deserved "Hatchet Job of the Year"). Warning: this book is very overloaded with metaphors and similes. The prose like a soup that has been overcrowded with vegetables and meats to the point where the broth disappears altogether. And, like a once-ever-green bush now hidden under a mink coat of white snow. Or a cat with a spine riddled with tumors. And much l ...more
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this, the first book I read by Rachel Cusk. I will definitely be reading more of her. More than a description of a break up, it is what happens inside her, which is much better than the anecdote of break up itself. A meditation on relationships taken to another level.
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Rachel Cusk's novel's are wonderful; they are illuminating, thoughtful and worthwhile reads. However, this so-called memoir is not in that category. It appears --at least to me--to be a series of journal entries mostly about her separation from her husband, but mysteriously, she never reveals much about the marriage. Her self-absorption is difficult to overcome. ...more
Mar 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am not sure what all the fuss is about. Yes, it's raw and angry, but it's not exactly a 'tell-all' about her marriage or divorce. She hits on some of the major issues, but avoids the gory details--wisely, I think. Her husband doesn't come off too badly, her kids probably wouldn't even recognise themselves, so the only one who she really hangs out to dry is herself, and isn't that her prerogative? OK, maybe people take issue with her very blunt opinions on love, marriage and motherhood, but man ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Underwhelming, lacking substance, and reads like a poorly edited diary; if the author insists on writing about the aftermath of her separation, it would be helpful if she gave the reader more insight as to why her marriage ended.
Lori Anderson
Aug 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir, own-it
Oh my word, I was bored to tears, and I'm a memoir-lover. This author seemed more in love with her words than in putting them together to keep me interested. Pass. ...more
Jonathan Pool
I've read a number of Cusk novels, and I'm aware of the divisiveness in response her writing elicits.
I too am alternately frustrated by her writing style and intrigued by it.
The subject of marital breakdown is always likely to have an autobiographical element, and in Cusk's case her personal travails are frequently revisited each time she produces new work.
Aftermath by name, and "aftermath" in theme; the book comprises eight separate short story reflections. Each could stand alone. This is the d
Mar 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Didn't like it at all. The author was trying so hard to be "literary" that her writing was incomprehensible. Ugh! ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book because I'm determined to consume all of Cusk's writings. This is my third book of hers. They have a definite flavour, and I find I can't do them all in a row. I need time (a year?) in between. But I love her intelligence and her insight, I really do. It's low action, but it's high on emotion. I absolutely loved Outline. Aftermath was so emotional and so feeling, in a similar way.

I wouldn't say you have to be separated or divorced to read this book. Not at all. I read it for th
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
With flashes of sheer brilliance, this memoir of personal essays, in which Rachel Cusk dissects the aftermath of her own failed marriage, is much more straightforward than her wonderful Outline trilogy. If you loved those books but found Faye too elusive, this memoir gives a bit more insight into Cusk's private thoughts. Be warned though, it doesn't spill the beans on why her marriage failed or who was at fault. Instead, it gives a penetrating analysis of how marriage affects gender roles and wh ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I read Rachel Cusk's 'Outline' a year ago, and remember rereading quite a few passages many times, for her writing was warm and intelligent at the same time. The plot was all over, but the story was still compelling. In her memoir 'Aftermath', Cusk is confused and depressed; her marriage has plummeted. Cusk does an autopsy of her marriage, of the roles that each partner played, the futility of the institutions called Marriage and Family, and in her own time explores the shadow that her failed re ...more
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
What a horrible book! During the creation of this book I believe that the writer (full time writer Rachel Cusk) was in a bad mood. A very bad mood. It is not surprising considering her separation/divorce and consequences of divorce. She got a partial custody of her daughters but she was also supposed to financially support her husband who didn't work (a lawyer), was at home (by choice) helping bringing up the children. What a mess!!!
There is a lot of Greek mythology in this book. Quite a few cha
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Próza jak chladná bílá zářivka v ordinaci na úrazovce.

„But I imagine Abraham and Isaac walking back down the mountainside afterwards in silence, their story of love in tatters. The father has learned that he is capable of harming his child. The child has learned that parental love is not the safety he believed it to be. What will the new story be, grown from this terrible knowledge?“
Sara Salem
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this in two hours because it is so vivid. Amazing observations on love, relationships, gender and what it means to be a woman generally.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A beautiful novel that meditates on what happens at the end of a marriage. Rachel Cusk is just amazing. If you have not read her, you should.
Beth Bonini
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I say to her, all my memories are being taken away. Nothing belongs to me anymore. I have become an exile from my own history, I say to her, I no longer have a life. It’s an afterlife; it’s all aftermath.

Rachel Cusk never explains exactly why her marriage has broken down; in any case, I think she would argue that ‘reasons’ are deeply subjective, highly arbitrary and ultimately irrefutable. Instead, she goes deep into how the breakdown of her marriage makes her feel - and precisely describes
I seem drawn to these quiet little books about relationships. On Chesil Beach. A Separation. Dept. of Speculation. All the Living. Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage. It doesn't seem to matter whether the relationship is healthy or unhealthy; I'm just curious about the individual dynamics.

Quit on page 46. Maybe I’m too busy, but I just can’t care enough to get into the dwelling, the wallowing, the digressing. I don’t even know how unfair I’m being right now; it didn’t even sink in enough for tha
Lucy Somerhalder
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
As with A Life's Work, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the exploration of loneliness. There is some wonderfully brutal honesty in this - the kind that seems to perfectly articulate those long-held, yet fragmented and unutterable feelings of unease. Hats off to Cusk, because her honesty often leaves her exposed and thoroughly unlikable. ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cusk is never less than electrifying. Certain motifs - splitting in two, form, Greek drama, the Brighton seaside - get churned up by her prose, as if from the earth, and then re-sedeeded, and she points out that "aftermath" means second harvest. Then the beautiful short story at the end that puts all that in a cake pan and bakes it up, sad and delicious. I'm re-reading this now. ...more
Rachel Y
3.5 Intensely written and layered with meaning /depth at every turn... I feel like I understand marriage, womanhood, and divorce on a different level now. I didn't like the change in perspective at the end (at all), so bumping down to a 3.5, but this was an honest, difficult book that says and works through the harder things. ...more
Fiona Borrelli
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was entranced by this and read it in a sitting. The author muses on her recent separation, but the real focus is her own identity, femininity, how she relates to the outside world and how she rebuilds herself. It’s intensely personal and controversial for her family no doubt, but beautifully written. Some of her views on feminism feel a little dated, and the book is inherently a little self-indulgent, but overall a good read.
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent at times, good at others. If you enjoyed A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother or Coventry: Essays I'd venture that you'd find something to enjoy here too. ...more
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
When I read A Life's Work, I was an immediate fan. I wanted to run out and accost strangers and say "Read this! It's perfect! It says it exactly how it is!"

When I read Aftermath my reaction was similar but opposite. I wanted to accost strangers and say, "Read this. What do you make of it? I don't understand."

This may be a function of my not being divorced. But the book struck me as a wandering narrative that doesn't ever arrive.

The thing most disappointing is that the book sticks to its title.
Kathleen Hulser
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fierce scrutiny of the aftermath of divorce, anchored in descriptions of states of phenomenological confusion, loss of boundaries, loss of meaning. Cusk realizes that she gave away her social prestige by allowing her husband to care for the children; yet that is a prestige that she recognizes as coin of a social system she felt she had transcended. Acute analysis of the exchange of masculinity and femininity within the forms of marriage and personal dialectics. Painfully honest about the alien r ...more
Anne Green
A memoir is not a confessional. We don’t expect the memoirist to tell all, the truth being a slippery, entirely subjective and even fictional concept. But I do think in embarking on telling their story the memoirist enters into an unspoken pact with the reader to reveal enough to enlist even a superficial empathy or at least understanding. Otherwise why bother?

Instead of this, Rachel Cusk has indulged in a tantrum about how shabbily life has treated her since a marriage breakdown which it appea
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Rachel Cusk was born in Canada, and spent some of her childhood in Los Angeles, before her family returned to England, in 1974, when Cusk was 8 years old. She read English at New College, Oxford.

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 has

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