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(Outline #1)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  29,485 ratings  ·  3,626 reviews
A luminous, powerful novel that establishes Rachel Cusk as one of the finest writers in the English language

A man and a woman are seated next to each other on a plane. They get to talking--about their destination, their careers, their families. Grievances are aired, family tragedies discussed, marriages and divorces analyzed. An intimacy is established as two strangers con
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 14th 2014)
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S. Solicitude refers to having care or concern for something/someone, whereas solitude we know is somewhat of the opposite. When she corrects him for say…moreSolicitude refers to having care or concern for something/someone, whereas solitude we know is somewhat of the opposite. When she corrects him for saying he will be caring/concerned for her the rest of the day, and suggests that rather he will simply be alone without her the rest of the day, it almost seemed to me that she's highlighting their different views on their "relationship." To whatever extent he wanted a connection between them, she was equally adverse and kept their relationship at an arm's length. Just some initial thoughts! (less)

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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Damn you, Rachel Cusk. This book was absolutely infuriating. As I was reading it, I kept telling myself that I hated it. And so, I burned through it in a a little more than 24 hours. It bears little resemblance to any other novel I've ever read. The characters seem vague and unformed, but they come through with periodic startling observations about life and human nature that hit me like a punch in the stomach. The "star system" here on Goodreads is totally useless for this book. (Yeah, it's prob ...more
Violet wells
Reading Outline is like spying on an author in the process of auditioning characters for a future novel. In other words it is indeed an outline, an outline for a work that it still shadowy in the writer’s mind. Cusk interviews her potential characters and lets them tell her emotionally pivotal stories about themselves. She makes no other dramatic demands of them. They become like a Greek chorus of voices without a play.

A writer, unnamed until the penultimate chapter, travels to Athens to host a
Julie Ehlers
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
In Outline, a writer named Faye (perhaps not unlike Rachel Cusk herself) travels to Athens for a few days to lead a writing workshop. Along the way, she engages in conversations with several people--her seatmate on the plane, other teachers and students in the workshop, friends she meets up with, friends those friends have brought along, et cetera. Sometimes Faye listens to these people without comment, sometimes she challenges them, sometimes she reveals something about herself. That's all. The ...more
While I'm reading a book, I'm often aware that my perception of time gets a little warped because story time can run much faster than the time it takes to read it. This imbalance can leave me a bit disoriented when I lay the book down and adjust to the fact that it's still the same day as when I began reading though years may have gone by for the characters among whom I've spent the last hour or two.

While reading this book on the other hand, real time passed much faster than story time. And sto
Elyse  Walters
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, canada, europe
The protagonist is a British novelist, who goes to Greece for one week, to teach creative writing. She, *Faye*, is divorced, and has 2 sons who stayed back in London.
That’s about all we know of her for awhile. Actually we never learned her name until late in the book. We are slowly piecing together stories about Faye.

The uniqueness of this novel is cerebral and gorgeous.

Before the narrator even arrives in Athens, she engages in an intriguing-intimate conversation with an older man sitting next
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21-ce, fiction, uk
Mellifluous with a beautifully honed thematic core. The tone nimbly alternates between black despair and forlornness and subtle humor. If E.M. Forster excelled at intrusive narrators, always commenting on events, Rachel Cusk’s narrator here might be called unintrusive for the way she hangs back and let’s others speak. One of the walking wounded herself, her damage manifests itself in a kind of unquestioning passivity. She’s going through the motions.

The narrator is an unnamed divorced woman, Eng
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 “pristine, refreshing, clear” stars !!

2016 Bronze Award - Third Favorite Read (Tie)

I am a man that resides in the world of emotion. They are here with me always and are always acute, not in the background. Emotions often make me soar to the heavens or shiver in delight, but other times they make me flounder, weigh me down like the experience of walking in the cold snow with a hole in my boot that leaves my precious foot frigid and lonely.

I am unsure why the last paragraph came to my consciou

Although I've read this in English I thought that the title for the Spanish translation suited the novel better then the original. Contraluz, that translates literally as 'backlighting' but whose meaning is something like 'against the light' fitted better this novel in which an English woman, who travels to Athens to teach writing to Greek pupils, leaves behind a shaded world to face her life and herself against the Aegean sun.

This novel is loaded with material. Gender is prominent: women, women
Adam Dalva
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Staggeringly unique in its simplicity. Essentially a series of interactions over a week-long trip to Greece where the lead is teaching a writing class: the characters are so rich, yet so contained - and the lead's character was at once the most interesting and the most invisible. I dug through the the text for information about her, frustrated and thrilled that her interlocutors (even a random stranger from an airplane) knew more about her life's story than we did.

But by the end, I somehow felt
Justin Evans
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My wife used to read the TLS 'books of the year' edition and use it to choose books she wanted to get. Then, one fateful year, everyone recommended a certain book; she purchased it in expensive hardcover, read it in a day, and was completely flummoxed. The book was garbage. What to make of this?

She decided that the U.K. publishing scene is so small and (her word) incestuous that they just read the same five books and then talked about them for a week before moving on. She no longer looks to the
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Contemplative and cool, Outline reflects on the many ways encounters with others shape the self. The work follows Faye, a recently separated writer, as she travels from Britain to Athens to teach a writing workshop for a week; each chapter consists of a series of conversations about life, alternately witty and anguished, that Faye has with her students, fellow writers, and acquaintances. They discuss everything from the limits of memory to the pain of lost love, though the nature of character li ...more
Julie Christine
To call this a novel would seem to restrict it to a convention of style, to set up expectations of narrative rhythm and form. Outline, so aptly named, is a sketchbook of lives, charcoal drawings of souls captured in profile.

The book is series of conversations delivered with a twanging chord of tension and self-interest. Or really, it's a collection of confessions delivered to a listener who reciprocates only rarely; she is an ear, an eye, a filter; less participant than sponge.

The subject of the
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Being is. Nothingness is not.”

With these rather enigmatic words, the Greek Presocratic Parmenides, speaking to us from the Greek Empire’s first Sunrise in early times, defined the Terminology of Isness so succinctly, that nearly 2,500 years later it is still considered a valid mode of reasoning.

The constant actuality of Being is Ms Cusk’s apparent - but elusive, though its appearance may be solid - bedrock.

In modern times Jean-Paul Sartre has summed up this bedrock’s - Being’s - opposite as t
Joseph Burgess
Rachel Cusk is obviously a writer of tremendous talent, and "Outline" doesn't hide her skills.

But I found this book to be lacking. The premise, on its face, is interesting: a series of conversations the narrator has with people she meets on her week in Athens that helps show the wide disparity of "outlines" and shapes of people's lives. It sounds existential and philosophical and hip and like half of all of the other novels that are coming out right now.

For the most part, the book executes its
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is one of those rare reads for me in which a close-to-DNF turned into a stellar read for me. 😮

Here are my early comments as I was reading…these are not promising!
• Chapter 2: With Ryan, a fellow teacher who was born in Ireland and lived in the US I think. BORING!
• Chapter 3: Describes the apartment she is staying in. So so boring! WTF
• Chapter 4: Back with the guy on the airplane. BORING.
• Chapter 5: with a famous novelist, Angelika, and a man who was a small-press publisher, Paniotis. So s
4 - 4.5

I've been meaning to read Cusk for a few years, after hearing, seeing and reading raving reviews for her latest three books in a series, of which Outline is the first. The black and white covers using Man Ray's photography got stuck in my head. (not this cover).

This is a plotless novel made up of conversations with a variety of people - a Greek man who had been divorced three times, a publisher, writers, writing course students and a few others. These conversations are recorded in a non-j
Laura Anne
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional reading.

I felt that each of the female characters - represented a different facet to the pain of the disintegration of Faye's, our narrator's marriage. As if each woman, was in fact recounting all the variations of loss experienced by Faye. Each woman relaying not simply the loss of their partner but the avalanche, or domino effect of the result of the breaking down of the most significant relationship in their lives; and most disturbing of all - their sense of identity and in tandem
Gumble's Yard
Like many others of my Goodreads friends, I re-read just ahead of the publication of the concluding book of the trilogy which this book commenced. My original review of this and the second volume Transit is below – on this reading I enjoyed finding quotes which summarised for me either Rachel Cusk’s underlying technique in writing the trilogy, or the choice of title for this first volume.

There was so little interface between inside and outside, so little friction

Sometimes .. the loss of trans
L A i N E Y ~back in a bit~
“I did not, any longer, want to persuade anyone of anything.”

Specific and so open-minded.

I find myself stumped when trying to describe this book’s writing style: it’s perched on what people might call stream-of-consciousness but that word, I think, doesn’t quite capture the essence of the whole... The book has very distinct and peculiar style that I’ve never come across before. It reminds me a bit of Ishiguro Kazuo’s The Unconsoled early on but I found out rather quickly that the characters in O
I read the first 66 pages before setting this aside. I didn’t dislike the writing; I even found it quite profound in places, but there’s not enough story to peg such philosophical depth on. This makes it the very opposite of unputdownable. Last year I read the first few pages of Cusk’s Aftermath, about her divorce, and found it similarly detached. In general I just think her style doesn’t connect with me. I’m unlikely to pick up another of her books.

A few lines I appreciated:

“As it happened I wa
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: PW 10/27/14
Shelves: hoopla, read2019, ebooks
Hardly anything happens in this book but I really enjoyed reading the conversations and insights about life and connection, and the setting is pretty great too. Some of those are marked from the Kindle version I read.

It's funny, I saw a review for this in Publishers Weekly back in 2014, and I would pick it up at the library and look at it and always decide not to read it. It was hard to understand the point. Then several reading friends with good taste loved it. Then Kudos, technically the third
Jan 11, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like watching paint dry without the action of having paint run down the wall. This felt like reading a languid MFA paper by the precocious pet student. Forced to read this because Paris Review in its infinite wisdom published the novel over four issues in 2013-2014. I stopped reading in the third installment.
Joachim Stoop
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Rather 4,25.

Phew, this is something else! There is some of the best writing in it, but because of the lack of story AND abundancy of stories it was a tough read. There is at the same time nothing and too much going on. It is a rather new and fresh take on storytelling (altough it reminded me of Jenny Offill, Valeria Luiselli, Miranda July and especially Ben Lerner).
It is so dense and deep that you really have to stay 100% concentrated all the time. Often, I was enjoying a certain episode, anecd
Diane Barnes
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult book to review because of its strange nature. Not really a novel in terms of plot (there really isn't one), it is instead an account of conversations with others, mostly strangers, involving a recently divorced mother of two sons who has come to Athens for a few days to teach a writing course. As she recounts these conversations and their settings, a few facts from her own circumstances emerge.

This doesn't sound like much to base a novel on, but as I read, I began to realize
Nothing much really happens in Outline. A writer, Faye, goes to Athens to teach an English-language writing workshop. She befriends the man sitting next to her on the plane, who tells her of his failed marriages. The stories Faye hears - from this man, from her co-teacher, from her students and friends - make up the narrative, and in between we learn a little of her own life. So it's not terribly eventful, and there certainly isn't a plot, but the characters' conversations are fascinating, havin ...more
Rating 3.5

Odd but mesmerizing. A woman writer goes to Greece to teach a writing course. Along the way, people tell her detailed stories. Sometimes it's kinda disjointed but the stories become detailed and sometimes all over the place. Sometimes I would so drawn into a story and then it ended.

I've been wanting to read Cusk for some time. I'm very glad to finally get to this, though I listened to the audio on this one. I can't say this one is for everyone. I can't say I will remember much of the s
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 million stars.
Exquisite, fresh, intelligent and melancholically wrapped up with subtle humour, this little beast of a novel left me totally satisfied and begging for more at the same time.

On the surface ‘Outline” has practically no plot or any character development and seems more like a lot of random conversations than anything else but my tiny little brain was over the moon while reading this. Totally electrified. So much simplicity. So much love for literature and human nature.
Roger Brunyate
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women
He was describing, in other words, what she herself was not: in everything he said about himself, she found in her own nature a corresponding negative. This anti-description, for want of a better way of putting it, had made something clear to her by a reverse kind of exposition: while he talked she began to see herself as a shape, an outline, with all the detail filled in around it while the shape itself remained blank. Yet this shape, even while its content remained unknown, gave
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The third volume of the trilogy of which Outline is first is what introduced me to Cusk. I am kind of astonished I’ve not been badgered about her constantly—she is so funny, so illuminating, so exacting. My enthusiasm for Kudos prompted GR friends to insist I read the three-books-in-one so I picked up Outline.

I’m pleased I read the third book first. It is even better than the first by orders of magnitude, though I’d feared I’d begin to see the seams if I read all three books at once. Never mind.
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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

Other books in the series

Outline (3 books)
  • Transit
  • Kudos

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