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Coventry: Essays
Rachel Cusk
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Coventry: Essays

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  452 ratings  ·  77 reviews
From Rachel Cusk, her first collection of essays about motherhood, marriage, feminism, and art

Rachel Cusk redrew the boundaries of fiction with the Outline Trilogy, three "literary masterpieces" (The Washington Post) whose narrator, Faye, perceives the world with a glinting, unsparing intelligence while remaining opaque to the reader. Lauded for the precision of her prose
ebook, 256 pages
Published September 17th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published August 20th 2019)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  452 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, 2019-read
This collection of essays combines memoir, social and literary criticism, and in a way, all of the texts are talking about storytelling: How we narrate our own lives and times is the main focus of Cusk's explorations. The author meditates about driving as a metaphor, the narrative families employ to define themselves and what happens when it is questioned by teenagers or even shattered by divorce, rudeness as a way of communication, teaching creative writing as a profession, art as way of ...more
When I heard about a new book of essays by Rachel Cusk, I had two conflicting reactions: one was joy and one was sadness. Cusk is one of my favorite authors. She thinks deeply and can straightforwardly, analytically discuss her perceptions in involving prose but her characters can also demonstrate wildly ditzy intellectual fadeouts. I was sad to think I’d never have the quietness of mind in the current worldwide political upheaval to read her work in peace.

Then I saw a review by Clair Wills in
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5. There are very few all-rounders as good as Cusk. Warning: will make you want to dust off copies of all books covered. (The Wharton and Lawrence essays are especially good.)
Kasa Cotugno
The best essays make you look at things differently. This collection, comprised of material heretofore published in the likes of Granta and The Guardian, consists of fine examples of why Rachel Cusk is in such demand as a writer and as an analyst of other writers. The first two sections concern essays of introspection, autobiographical in nature. She writes of what she knows of life, with echoes of her recent trilogy: the harrowing conditions of trying to drive around her own home town, a ...more
Katia N
It has been a long time since I wanted to read a book of essays. I’ve started with this collection, but then got into the swing of things and spent a few weeks reading just essays from different authors. I found it fascinating experience, in some ways, it is easier than reading a serious novel, but very stimulating nevertheless. I plan to do it again soon with more empathises on the literary criticism. This book was the first in the bunch. It might be that the following essays and the authors I’ ...more
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those deals where the author becomes famous enough to collect past essays from periodicals and sets them in categories within a book. It might be you can find some of them online (I haven't looked) but, conveniently grouped for you in a hardcover, you get a taste of the fiction writer's nonfiction-writing strengths, all packaged in the clothbound of convenience.

The first thing you'll learn about Rachel Cusk is that she is a capital-F Feminist. I am woman, hear me roar, as Helen
Chris Haak
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the first part Coventry: absolutely 5 stars! The rest was good and often excellent. Cusk is so analytical, precise, observant and clever. Definitely one of the best writers of this time!
Anna Luce
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Deborah Levy and Ali Smith
3 stars

I have rather mixed thoughts about Rachel Cusk's Coventry: Essays. Maybe I'm just not the right 'reader' for her work...I previously read, and was rather underwhelmed by, Outline (a book which has won quite a few literary awards and is regarded as a modern classic).

This collection by Cusk is divided in three sections: the first consists of autobiographical essays (“Driving as Metaphor”,“Coventry”, “On Rudeness”, “Making Home”, “Lions on Leashes”, “Aftermath”) in which she makes various
Marcus Hobson
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I only started reading Rachel Cusk last year, when I read all three books in her recent trilogy; Outline, Transit and Kudos. I really enjoyed both the humour and the quirkiness of some of the situations that she created. As a result I was very keen to read this series of essays called simply ‘Coventry’.

For those that might not know, Coventry is a city in the UK which has acquired its own phrase or idiom. To be ‘sent to Coventry’ is a phrase that means to be ignored or shunned by everyone and
Joachim Stoop

I loved reading (the first part of) these essays -especially the one about her divorce (so 'loved' doesn't feel appropriate here).
Cusk is an exceptionally gifted writer, who can find an intersting angle about n'importe quoi, which sometimes brings her to territories of overexplaining, overthinking and farfetched analysis. She gets away with it 'cuz of her delicate play with words, but still...

Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Three and a half stars.
The personal essays in this collection work best. Cusk writes about driving and how the burdens of sharing space on the road sometimes brings out the worst in people. Another essay is about her home, her relationship to having a space she can control might harm her relationship with her daughters, which she doesn't want, especially because of her awful relationship with her own mother. I love how stridently (not a slur) she defends feminism and the simmering rage that is
Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)
“Every so often, for offenses actual or hypothetical, my mother and father stop speaking to me. There’s a funny phrase for this phenomenon in England: it’s called being sent to Coventry.”

In her new collection of essays, Cusk is in her glittering finest. It’s incredibly difficult to distill down the essence of these essays which are so varied in subject and scope. The collection is broken into three sections. In the first part, which was by far my favourite, Cusk explores personal topics inspired
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is Rachel Cusk my favorite living writer? Or does she just speak to where I am right now as a mother and 41 year old woman? The power came back on at midnight and I finished COVENTRY. If you don’t close this book with strong feelings about the imperative to know yourself and be truthful about living as a sincerely moral and compassionate person—and then write with that kind of self-awareness in a voice of utter clarity—then I just don’t know what to say to you because I have so much to say about ...more
Kati Stevens
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not entirely fair to compare books by different authors because writing shouldn't be a competition. So of course I am now going to do it. While reading this book, particularly the end essays on literature, I was reminded of Feel Free by Zadie Smith and thought how much I preferred Cusk's pieces. Now Olivia Manning, D.H. Lawrence, and Natalia Ginzburg have moseyed higher up on my to-read list, thanks to Cusk.

Coventry is a strange compilation, though. There's an entire essay on traffic in
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My third book by Rachel Cusk and the best one (so far). The other two were "The Country Life " and "Aftermath".
Really liked this book of essays, especially the first group of esseys called Coventry. Well written, relevant, have same opinion and experience as R. Cusk. Really, really good, glad somebody finally mentioned such issues.
The other two groups were reviews on various writers, their books, opinions.
Especially liked Rachel Cusk's review of Doris Lessing's story.
Will definitely read more
Cherise Wolas
Cusk is one of my favorite writers - in every iteration - her older novels, her trilogy, her nonfiction. These essays, previously published elsewhere, are erudite, steely, focused, and compelling.
Enchanted, to renew, on living and being.
I gained insights on feminism and creative process.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
This collection is really good, if a bit scattered. I particularly love Cusk's refusal to cede to the idea that there is an ideal way to mother. She strongly pushes against the idea that "getting" to stay at home with the kids is some sort of spiritual ascendance gifted by the gods of luck - what good mother wouldn't choose to forgo all of her ambitions and personal initiatives to devote herself to her husband and her children? If only all mothers had men to support them financially - then they ...more
Anand Bradley
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cusk is such an amazing writer but shes so mean to her family!!!!! :/
RH Walters
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Consistently brilliant writing from one of my favorites, but the impact was lessened somewhat by having read some of this material elsewhere, and I should know better than to seek comfort from Cusk during the desolate northern fall. I liked her pieces on other writers, and like any good writer she makes you want to read more.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An easy five stars for the personal essays. Cusk writes in this remarkably opalescent way, where the surface shimmer makes it easy to think you've gotten your fill, before you even begin to consider the depths below. It requires the exertion of some discipline, for me, to focus on the arguments being made instead of just enjoying the craft of the writing. But of course, the discipline is well rewarded.

The book reviews and such are less interesting, although the review of Eat Pray Love made me
If this woman wrote a cookbook, I'd read it. But Cusk on Wharton? Magnificent.
Jack Wolfe
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read "Transit," and I said some sort of mean things about it, how I didn't think I'd remember it in a year. Well, here I am, about a year later, and though I can't remember a single line or character or idea in "Transit," I remember that... voice... Those chilly, piercing, merciless lines of Rachel Cusk... The sort of sentences that only a really confident, really gifted writer would even attempt.

"Coventry" seems to me a better entry into the Cusk corpus than "Transit," even if it's
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To send someone to Coventry is an English idiom meaning to deliberately ostracise someone. Typically, this is done by not talking to them, avoiding their company, and acting as if they no longer exist. Victims are treated as though they are completely invisible and inaudible.

They invented "ghosting", as if giving somebody a cold shoulder wasn't cool enough.
Auld lang syne, my friends!
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of these essays are really excellent and some of them are just fillers to fill a book of essays, but I love Cusk's writing and so I enjoyed this collection. I especially loved her essay about her divorce and discovering the hidden gender roles that were at play in her marriage even though it had been a non-traditional arrangement.
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed her essays on literature, writing and art in the last two sections of the book ("Shakespeare's Sisters," "Louise Bourgeois") and the titular essay best. I was slightly disappointed "Aftermath," the titular essay from another collection was replicated here, but overall I liked it. Rachel Cusk continues to be an aspirational literary voices who makes me feel like I understand nothing at all.
Dec 31, 2019 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I couldn't care less.
Mike Benoit
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars, not everything is a total bop (as the children say), but Cusk is one of the best alive.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was brilliant in the way that all Rachel Cusk is brilliant but I wish we didn't have to talk about gender like this :-(
Cassandra Austin
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are essays in here that stunned me, and there are pieces that I found (surprisingly) poorly argued. Regardless, I would read the proverbial laundry list, if she wrote it.
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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
“The truth often appears in the guise of a threat to the social code. It has this in common with rudeness. When people tell the truth, they can experience a feeling of release from pretence that is perhaps similar to the release of rudeness. It might follow that people can mistake truth for rudeness, and rudeness for truth. It may only be by examining the aftermath of each that it becomes possible to prove which was which.” 1 likes
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