Arlington Park

Rachel Cusk
Faber and Faber, paperback, £7.99

Reviewed by Alison Cornmell

Arlington Park is the story of five women each living a traditional life, they are wife and mother in middle class suburbia. The novel takes place over the course of day and watches the women performing the ritual of day-to-day life. Each woman is battling with to varying levels of frustration and in some cases unspoken depression brought on by the tedium of the everyday and their inability to escape life’s rut.

The characterisation of the female characters is stark and challenges accepted notions of womanhood and motherhood. The women are very real, they have opinions, flaws and even their dialogue is very believable. They are not perfect, and some of the women are people that you wouldn't necessarily like. In contrast to these very human female characters the male characters are quite different in terms of characterisation. They are contorted and twisted with descriptions that are subtly grotesque and sub-human. Their characterisation causes some kind of revulsion in both the female characters and the readers alike.

Despite the definite lack of endearing qualities that all the characters have, I still felt compelled to read on because of Cusk’s writing style. She is able to describe the arbitrary and make it extraordinary. Because of this command of language she is able to write of the women's monotonous lives with a style that is beautiful and seems to, ironically, transcend the monotony it is describing.

Arlington Park is a novel to be savoured, in order to enjoy the sumptuousness of Cusk’s writing. It is accomplished and beautifully written. It shows a snippet of these women’s lives and then departs without any real resolution leaving me unsatisfied, but if Cusk’s characters are left unsatisfied why should we be any different?

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