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The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  416 ratings  ·  92 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. The award-winning writer Rachel Cusk describes a three-month journey around the Italy of Raphael and rented villas, of the Piero della Francesca trail and the tourist furna ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published May 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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Trish
One has to ask oneself why we read memoirs of travels. Wouldn’t it be better to just take off on our own, not knowing of other people’s troubles or joys in case we are fearful or disappointed? But Rachel Cusk reminds us why we read other people’s tales: she is observant, and terribly funny. Tales of her trips make ours resonant with laughter, too. How did we first manage when confronted with grocery stores without anything we would consider food in them?

Oh yes, training one’s palate until we rec
...more
Kasey Jueds
Sep 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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
Amanda
Oct 28, 2016 rated it liked it
In the same detached style that Rachel Cusk has used in her fiction she writes about an extended family vacation to Italy. I really enjoyed her commentary on travel and I think she really captured what it would feel like to be a foreigner. I loved the parts about the art and appreciated the inclusion of the pictures. I also really liked the last part when they were camping. That part felt the most authentic to me. Oh and the gelato, let's not forget that! I definitely prefer Cusk's is fiction bu ...more
John
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, library_books
I had read Cusk's novel Outline, which I liked, so decided to try her nonfiction - what a great idea! Normally, a book about a British family in Italy would seem ... overdone, but she's a terrific observer, of both Italians and foreigners. While there's no way she could have planned it that way, the events of the last day of their trip made for a prefect ending to the story. Highly recommended! ...more
Rebecca
Having moved away from Bristol, Cusk and her family (a husband and two children) decided to spend a summer in Italy before deciding where to go next. They took the boat to France then drove, made a stop in Lucca, and settled into a rented house on the eastern edge of Tuscany. It proceeded to rain for 10 days. Cusk learns to speak the vernacular of football and Catholicism – but Italian eludes her: “I too feel humbled, feel childlike and impotent. It is hard to feel so primitive, so stupid.” They ...more
Rachel
Aug 08, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
Lynda
Jul 20, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
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
George
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rachel
Sep 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Nancy
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 has the fa
...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
Chad
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having thoroughly enjoyed Cusk’s magnificent Outline trilogy, I have made a conscious effort to discover her backlist. Last year I read Coventry, a collection of previously published pieces of essay and non-fiction writing and found her distinct cool and detached voice that I adored in the Outline trilogy present again.

The Last Supper follows Cusk and her husband and two children bored and unfulfilled with their lives in Bristol, England and (rather spontaneously) deciding to sell their belongi
...more
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
Apr 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebekah
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Steven Smith
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was predisposed to like this book having just come back from a holiday in Italy - and I did. The Italian details were recognisable - from the observations on the food, the heat, the beaches. But really, this book was more about the author and what she brought to the story.
I know lots of people don't like her but I do. For me, her honesty is what trumps everything. I never get the impression she is misrepresenting anything or tries to claim any value for the way she describes herself and her e
...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Jul 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sept-oct-2009
"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
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
Tessa
Mar 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Shirley
Apr 22, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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
Nicole
Jul 31, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010
Ugh, this book... It's filled with trying to be high-brow description and just comes across as so pretentious. And how come the animals can have names, but the family can't?

The only reason it gets even a star is that I actually enjoyed the chapter entitled Gianfranco's Store, which was about Italian food.

First Reads win
Diana
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Barely srapped three stars! She only went for 3 months! Not such a massive sell-up and go risk as she makes out. She does seem incredibily fond of her own important thoughts. Some of it is well wrtitten, much is a tourist's surface comprehension. She should have stayed for 3 years - then she would have earned the right to write about it (and she might have learnt the language). Mainly irritating.
Emily Simnitt
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lisa Lesyshen
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Oh why can't we all live in Italy!!
Laura
Nov 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Linda
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, travel
The author & family leave rainy England for an extended vacation in Italy. Rachel Cusk explores Italy through its famous artists in Rome, Florence, Amalfi Coast. ...more
Jessica
‘There are so many people that the sculptures on their plinths in the Loggia del Lanzi seem truly to be the gods they represent, gazing down on the awful spectacle of mortality. I have seen a fifteenth-century paining of the Piazza fella Signoria, where children play and the burghers of Florence stroll and chat in its gracious space, while the monk Savonarola is burned at the stake in the background outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Here and there peasants carry bundles of twigs, to put on the fire. ...more
Abby
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2020, british
The perfect summer read for a summer where you can’t go anywhere. Cusk is brilliant.
Sarah
Dec 09, 2009 rated it liked it
"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
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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
...more

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