The Country Life

The Country Life

Rachel Cusk / May 30, 2020

The Country Life Stella Benson eager to change her life answers a classified ad for an au pair and arrives in a tiny Sussex village that s home to a family slightly larger than life What drove her to leave home job

  • Title: The Country Life
  • Author: Rachel Cusk
  • ISBN: 9780312198480
  • Page: 238
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Stella Benson, eager to change her life, answers a classified ad for an au pair and arrives in a tiny Sussex village that s home to a family slightly larger than life What drove her to leave home, job, and life in London for such rural ignominy Why has she severed all ties with her family Why is she so reluctant to discuss her past And who, exactly, is Edward

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      Posted by:Rachel Cusk
      Published :2019-09-09T20:07:42+00:00

    About "Rachel Cusk"

      • Rachel Cusk

        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 8yo 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 won and been shortlisted for numerous prizes her most recent novel, Outline 2014 , was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Goldsmith s Prize and the Bailey s prize, and longlisted for Canada s Giller Prize In 2003, Rachel Cusk was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 Best of Young British Novelists She lives in Brighton, England.


    1. An off-beat, slightly bizarre but laugh-out-loud lark of a novel. The protagonist, Stella, abandons her life in London to become a country au pair. Stella is at once the perpetrator and the victim of her own wacky circumstances; she reacts to life with a shriek and a shrug. There isn't much a plot, just a series of occurrences that we cringe through along with Stella. Utterly original.

    2. I found this book completely baffling. The central protagonist acts in ways that are only explicable to me as an expression of mental illness, and yet the reviews I found seemed to suggest it was her employers who were mad. I found it all to be quite in the reverse - at the very least Stella is crippled with social anxiety, misses social cues, and cannot ask for many things directly. (A towel, girl! Ask for a towel!) Her "solutions" to her problems are incredibly foolish, and the constant litany [...]

    3. The first time I read this book, I read it as an intelligent and witty farce. But now, some 14 years later, I see darkness beneath the humorous incidents. The first half of the book is still laugh-out-loud funny as Stella enters the odd world of the Madden family and generates a series of absurd mishaps. Stella's inner dialogue is delicious. The author is a master of language (in that particularly wry British way) as she describes this peculiar family and the other eccentric people falling into [...]

    4. The Country Life by Rachel Cusk presents several promises, but eventually seems to break most of them. When Stella Benson, a twenty-nine-year-old, leaves home suddenly to take up a private care assistant’s job in darkest south England, it is clear that she is running away. From what we do learn later, but by then we perhaps care rather less about the circumstances.From the start there was a problem with the book’s point of view. Stella presents a first person narrative couched in a conventio [...]

    5. I remember reading a review of The Country Life that stated the narrator was pathologically nervous. Naturally, I thought, "Oh, you must be one of those hardy extroverts! Leave the sensitive girls alone!"Having read it, I can tell you this character is pathologically nervous. Even the narrative style is indicative of anxiety: halting, digressing, perseverating. It disturbed and then frightened me how much I could relate to Stella. These are my fears, my humiliations, my resentments. These are m [...]

    6. On one level this is a very enjoyable farce that is consciously reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm. On another it is a nightmarish tale of a naive and hapless woman trying to escape her life by accepting a position as a companion to the disabled son of an argumentative and dysfunctional upper middle class family on a remote farm in Sussex, despite an obvious lack of qualifications and experience. Cusk does not spare any of her characters much sympathy, so the comedy is pretty dark in places, and l [...]

    7. Probably one of the best books I've ever read. I absolutely loved Rachel's style of writing. The topic was somewhat banal and wasn't really that suspensful but I loved the English, syntax and style. I've probably re-read it about 3 times over the past 4 years. It takes a few pages to 'get into it' but couldn't put it down after that. Couldn't recommend highly enough to somebody who appreciates the English language the way it should be written/read.

    8. I stayed up late to finish this book last night. I’d finally gotten to about page 300 and thought: finally, something is about to happen . . . we’re getting to the point. But alas, no. Literally, when I finished the last page of the book, I turned the page and said: is my book defective? Because it couldn’t possibly end there. But after I checked the page count on , I realized that it was in fact over. And then I wanted to give a frustrated shriek.The book was an odd one for me. I often ha [...]

    9. Rachel Cusk has a completely unique voice, which is perhaps best described as meticulously observed panic. As a stylist, I don't think she can be beaten. She's also impossibly funny.

    10. Rachel Cusk does a great job of creating a narrator who is unreliable, but not necessarily an unreliable narrator. The protagonist is accident prone, but so many of her accidents can be attributed to her want of attention, or to her being distracted so that she does not think ahead. Nevertheless, she is a mostly sympathetic character: principled, for the most part, until it becomes inconvenient to remain so. Highly recommended.

    11. Maybe you have to be English to get this book. It's meant to be a dark comic novel parodying the city-person-moves-to-the-country genre, but many of the jokes fall flat to my American ear--and I'm an Anglophile obsessed with Diary of a Nobody, Love, Nina, and other similar books. None of the early setups pay off, and maybe that's part of the joke, but I found it disappointing. I did believe utterly in all of the characters, and loved Martin, the wry disabled kid whom the protagonist is hired to [...]

    12. A very good book. Each sentence is carefully crafted, each mundane action and thought is imbued with drama. I bet she worked her butt off writing this book. The ending was a little disappointing, as the plot took an unlikely turn. But overall, a very good book.

    13. What an odd little book! It clearly takes some inspiration from Cold Comfort Farm, except that here the family is upper class and the intruder a very odd, lonely girl called Stella, who has left her family in London and come to look after a disabled adolescent. The style is very quirky, staid and rather pompous. It veers from Jane Eyre through Jane Austen to Evelyn Waugh. Stella is a walking disaster; everything she attempts seems to go drastically wrong, culminating in a near-death experience. [...]

    14. Often I feel when I like an artist, I always have a FAVORITE and a BEST. The Temporary is my favorite of Rachel Cusk's books but I think The Country Life is the best. It's about this uptight yuppie woman who leaves her fiance behind and takes a position as a nanny to a handicapped child. It's really really funny. Can you imagine being married to Rachel Cusk? I mean how hard would it be to fool yourself that she was actually happy.

    15. I think I read this book many years ago - FORGETFUL BOOK! I plodded along - wondering if I would find answers to some of the mysteries mentioned throughout the book why did Rachel leave her husband? What was "The Creature" in the village referring to - who was "THE CRETURE?" Lots of flowery language which seemed to be the author SHOWING OFFI would NOT recommend this book to anyone Off it goes to the church book sale!

    16. This one just didn't work for me. I didn't see the humor that some other readers described; I was only mildly interested in the characters and kept reading in hopes that something was going to happen or there was ultimately going to be a point, but nothing. There are far too many books on my reading list; I fear I just wasted precious time that could have been put to much better use.

    17. By far the most infuriating, irritating, pointless novel I have experienced. Voted the least favourite read by reading circle of 10 years standing.

    18. "We are all, in our journey through life, navigating towards some special, dreamed-of place; and if for some reason we are thrown off course, or the place itself, once reached, is not what we hoped for, then we must strike out at whatever risk to set things right. Not all of these forays need have the drastic flavour of my own leap into the unknown; some are such subtle turnings that it is only afterwards that one looks back and sees what it was all leading to. But to drift, blown this way and t [...]

    19. Dithering between 3 and 4 *. This is strangely different, perhaps because the 1st person narrator is telling us things which reveal the oddity of her behaviour without apparently being self-aware enough to recognise how odd some of it is (or is this unfair to Stella?) Stella has accepted a post as a carer to a disabled teenager but without apparently checking any of the details of what is expected of her. The upper class family who have employed her also seem to have accepted her without questio [...]

    20. The Country Life is an odd book. I disliked the narrator with her nervous tics, her incapacities and especially her stiffly artificial manner of speaking. The story focuses on the narrator, Stella, who in time we discover is a wife of a week’s duration fleeing her husband to take a position as companion to a disabled 17-year old boy. His well-to-do parents are difficult with secrets in their pasts. There are three other grown children and various country dependents, all quite odd in their own [...]

    21. I love difficult and complicated characters, and Stella Benson is such a character. Reviewers have likened this to a modern retelling of Jane Eyre, but for me, there are more hints of Shirley Jackson a feeling of dis-ease over it all, of horrible things that might happen. The horrible doesn't happen, at least not in a supernatural way, and the issues are smaller, but characters have their own worlds and their issues are writ large in their worlds. The writing is complicated as well, at least per [...]

    22. I used to think that Rachel Cusk could do no wrong. Then I read this book. She still has the sharp characters and the amazing similes, but the book goes nowhere. I often felt like I was immersed in the world's most boring virtual reality game. Apparently this is riff off of Cold Comfort Farm, which I never read. (I saw the movie, which was ok.) I'm coming to the conclusion that I don't get most British humor. The humor here is just too soft and subtle for me. The narrator makes a fool of herself [...]

    23. Four and a half stars. A humorous yet dark novel and slightly bizarre. Stella becomes a carer for a handicapped teenager in the country. She arrives after a very short and 'difficult' marriage to Edward. She is running away from her life. Martin, the handicapped boy comes from an 'upper class' family who have land, a large house and a farm and many mysteries surrounding them as well as perhaps some madness. Cusk's use of a very formal language adds to the humour and adventure. A great read. One [...]

    24. This book received a slew of odd reviews from others. I read it because it was recommended by a friend who thought I'd appreciate it. I started reading it and found that I was struggling to move forward. I switched to the audio version and the book came alive! I think what some might be missing is that the author writes with stunning realism, however, to some of us, that realism is not what we are us to reading from our neighbors across the big blue ocean. The style of writing is flowing, music [...]

    25. Stella is certainly a bit baffling at first -- but I read somewhere this novel could be called a farce -- and that helped! Once I got to the end, I too would call it a farce! But I so enjoyed the author's technique: the clear chapter structure (each one with an ending), the Jane Austin-esque descriptions, the detailed streams of consciousness. It was just fun to read!

    26. An utterly original, comic horror tale of an off-balance au pair, from London, hurled into the terrors of English country life -- complete with sunburns, allergies, dogs, a fear of driving, an inscrutable (and being English, eccentric) family, and a mysteriously sympatico disabled teen. Cusk's minute-by-minute catalogue of phobias, fears, and falls makes this novel a page-turner without a plot.

    27. What a completely daft book! I really loathed the main character and her propensity to completely humiliate herself, until all of a sudden I loved her and all of her many, many flaws. Perhaps when she got drunk and nearly drowned in the swimming pool, after nearly accidentally killing the family dog.

    28. Bizarre. Some highly comic interludes in what is a rather sad story of a young woman abandoning her marriage while still honeymooning, taking a highly unsuitable job (given her personality and lack of practical qualifications) with a high strung family in the countryside.

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