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=Synopsis of the book:==
The book follows a day in the life of five very different women all of whom live in a typical town called Arlington Park. It shares not a special day at all more a typical day the only thing out of the ordinary is the rain that never seems to stop throughout it. The thing these ladies share other than their location is they are all mothers in their late 30's or their 40's.
The story follows firstly Juliet a part time teacher who worries about the relationship between men and women. Then it moves onto Amanda's life who spends her time cleaning and improving her home. Next up is Solly who is experimenting with letting out her spare room to foreign students. Then it follows Maisie who having recently moved from London is settling in to her new environment and life in Arlington Park. Lastly to follows Christine, probably the most outgoing of the group as she organises and hosts a Dinner Party for her friends in the neighbourhood.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
It is a real quandary for me whether or not I should recommend this very interesting piece of fiction. As on the one hand it really wasn't my kind of book and I did not enjoy it that much. But on the other I could see, feel and appreciate the quality of the writing and the very thought provoking style of the authors work.
It is probably more of a 'chick lic' than I am used to. And as a result it was very deep and sensitive read, probably a lot of which was wasted on me. It was written by a very intelligent author who seemed to have grasped exactly what it is like to be a mother in the 21st Century. With all the challenges and worries a mother faces dealing with her family and her position within the neighbourhood and society in general.
I think part of my problem was this story was basically all about five women. So for me it really lacked a balanced perspective on life, with the male view point. Although having said that when the women were together they were diverse in their views and opinions and you got differences of opinions and discussions around these.
What particularly impressed me with this story was the depth and insight the author displayed into family life and particularly how five different women shared worries but had different values, aspirations and goals. I liked and feel most readers could sympathise with their worries and how hard it is for a woman who has had children to try and balance their lives, to be a mother, a wife a homemaker with maintaining their own self esteem.
All the characters were superbly described not only in what they looked like, but their thoughts and feelings. As such there were characters such as Christine who was outgoing and confident at least outwardly, I wanted to know more about than say Sandra who I did to find interesting and I thought added little to the story itself. I really enjoyed the interaction between the ladies, it at times was entertaining, thought provoking and always an interesting insight into how and what mothers have to deal with.
Not only was this a thought provoking read it was also at times very perceptive and on occasions had me chuckling with it's humour. This mainly centred around the children who would, as children do say or do funny things. Where as the humour centred around the women themselves tended to be more subtle.
In some respects this story reminded me of Desperate Housewives, (which obviously I have never seen!!). Although I think it did lack the bite of the programme, dealing as it did with all the pressures that mothers in society face not the controversial subjects that the television deals with. That said it did bring up feelings such as guilt, resentment and jealousy but more in a day to day environment.
My biggest disappointment being a big fan of crime thrillers and adventure stories was I was waiting for something earth shattering to happen but it was only a mundane day. As a result I found it took me a while to appreciate the depth of the writing and I found it a little slow with all the detailed descriptions of the scenes and the characters feelings and thoughts.
It in many ways is not a particularly happy story, dealing with some with the difficulties in motherhood and how isolated the couple can feel when bringing up their children in a society that takes no prisoners and expects a certain level of conformity.
The end of the story deals with the Dinner Party that Christine arranges I would have preferred to have the expanded at the expense of some of the detail about each characters day. For me this and the Mall visit were the highlights as the author was able to use her considerable talent for using her creative skills in dealing with social interaction to its maximum. One of the few themes that ran through the story was the appalling whether and I really thought the author described it superbly using fantastic analagise, so that you could perfectly picture the situation she was creating.
I can see this being a real winner with people who are bringing up children and who can appreciate all the good, the bad and the tough job it is doing this and maintening you own self worth and image. It was not one that I particularly enjoyed reading myself although I was impressed by the characters the author created and all the themes she had involving each one of them. Although quite a short book at only 240 pages it was rich in detail, depth and it made me consider what a tough job being a Mum really is.
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
©CPTDANIELS April 2010.
I have just finished reading Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk - a novel that looked quite promising particularly as it had been shortlisted for a fiction prize in 2007. I really liked the idea behind this book too as it follows the residents of an ordinary English suburb throughout one day, moving from one household to the next and dipping into the lives of the inhabitants. Unfortunately the reality fell far short of my expectations!
Throughout the novel the reader meets a number of different characters who all live in Arlington Place. Most are women - housewives and school run mums - who pretty much seem to be discontented with their lot and in particular their husbands - if they have one. Juliet, Amanda, Maisie, Christine and others all seem to meander aimlessly through their days with little if anything to fill their shallow minds. There was not one character who I found likeable but this could be because they were portrayed in such a way that the reader does not get to know them. Therefore, rather than sympathising with their discontent, I just felt irritated by them I certainly did not understand them. The men were even worse - opinionated and patronising! No wonder the women were fed up!
The pace in this book is so slow that there are times that it comes to a virtual standstill. I was reminded of the Del Amitri song _ 'Nothing Ever Happens' - which could sum up the action in this book quite adequately. I know that in everyday life, things are often not that exciting, but as a slice of life this really did bore the pants off me! (More so than watching Big Brother!)One example to illustrate this is that towards the end there is a telephone conversation that is represented word for word between one of the characters and her mother that lasts about six pages and they really don't seem to talk about anything at all! I think that one of the reasons that the pace was so slow is that the author tends to indulge in great long passages of description. Although in places this is very effective and I did appreciate some good writing, there really was too much of it, and it just resulted in me often losing the thread.
I was often tempted to give up on this book but as it is quite short with only 240 pages I managed to persevere. I was disappointed though as I kept hoping that it might go somewhere but it never did. It was as static as the suburban lives that the characters lived. I think that I was most disappointed though because I felt that it should have been so much better - there was great potential for some meaty storylines but they never transpired. I don't want to be too damning of this book though as there are probably some people who might really enjoy reading it. It just wasn't for me though!
If I haven't completely put you off, the paperback is available from Amazon for £4.99.