Naomi reviews Transit by Rachel Cusk


Transit seems to be the most well-known book on the Giller shortlist this year. Yet it was the one I was least looking forward to.

When I read Rachel Cusk’s Giller shortlisted novel Outline two years ago, I had a luke-warm response to it. In fact, I returned it to the library after reading only half the book. So when Transit made it onto the list this year, I felt a little… apprehensive.

Well there is something to be said for low expectations, because I liked it. “Love” might be too strong a word, but “like” will do.

So I asked myself : what’s different? (And I know I’m not the only one who didn’t get along with Outline.) I think my issue with Outline was that I couldn’t connect with the characters. I didn’t care about anyone in the book, so there was no reason to keep reading.

The structure and style of writing in Transit is the same, but in Transit Faye is closer to home. The people she runs into and speaks to and shares stories about are closer to her own life. For this reason I think there is more opportunity to get to know her.

I enjoyed the fine details in the story…

Rachel Cusk is good at getting details right; the kind that make you think “Yes!”. For example, have you ever spoken back to the voice that is mysteriously or magically able to give you directions when you’re driving?

A friend of mine, depressed in the wake of of his divorce, had recently admitted that he often felt moved to tears by the concern for his health and well-being expressed in the phraseology of adverts and food packaging, and by the automated voices on trains and buses, apparently anxious that he might miss his stop; he actually felt something akin to love, he said, for the female voice that guided him while he was driving his car, so much more devotedly than his wife ever had.

But didn’t succeed in picking up on the main theme of the book…

 In the interview at 49th Shelf, Cusk says that she is surprised “that there hasn’t been more awareness of its central theme, which is children and the false morality that is displayed in so many of our dealings with them. I think I would point to the last chapter of the novel as the expression of my own views about the true nature of responsibility.” I wouldn’t have picked up on that myself.

To read my review in full, and find out what I thought of the book overall, please visit my blog.

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