Coventry: Essays

Coventry: EssaysCoventry: Essays by Rachel Cusk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This essay collection kicks off in the worst possible way – with a long complaint about driving which feels like the most boring dinner party conversation ever. The other personal pieces – on parenting, homemaking, marriage – I found more engaging, perhaps because I don’t drive but do have kids, although even then there is little that is novel or striking in them. The real value in the book is in the back half, where Cusk shares her perspectives on authors that have informed her writing. There are a few bizarre claims (“nothing is lost or destroyed or interrogated by comedy” apparently), but generally the values and perspectives Cusk holds dear are well argued for. One of the best essays is a spirited defence of creative writing lessons, which gives an empathetic portrait of what people get out of them. The other is on the knotty paradoxical problems of ‘women’s writing’ and whether greater equality has led to writing about domestic concerns being perceived as less prestigious. Cusk’s own (deserved) success and acclaim somewhat disproves that argument.

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