Travelogue that fails

2010-09-01 00:00

NARRATED in the first person, Rachel Cusk tells of her family’s travels­ to Italy, and a few pages in, I already did not like her.

I found her writing style to be tedious­ and entirely self-absorbed. She throws her contrived wisdoms around like they are immutable truths and the more profound she tries to be, the less I bought it, and the more it grated. Within her rambling stream of consciousness, far too many sentences start with I.

Her bitchy side is revealed as she comes across as unfairly disparaging of the other characters she encounters in her journey. And it is her journey. She hardly mentions her husband at all — a shadowy figure, he is relegated to the very rear of the background, and her two young daughters are mostly mentioned in terms of what feelings their actions evoke in her.

Anyway, the travelogue tells of how the family of four drive from Britain to Italy and spend three months staying in different locations, some more wondrous than others, as they visit many of the famous­ artworks. Not having been myself, and with a yearning to go, I was entranced by the descriptions of the art, but the very washed out black-and-white pictures in the book were disappointing. While reading about the hues and nuances used by the Old Masters, a good colour picture­ would have been far more satisfying.

Cusk gave the impression that she perhaps is the only one who gets the art. By not drawing on the sagacity of any other critics, she presents a very narrow view of her own interpretation. Exactly, you may think, what I am doing in this review. Ah, but you are wrong. I Googled Cusk, and while some wax lyrical about her style of writing, many others agree with me and give it a firm thumbs down.

Final verdict — this travel book failed to float my boat.


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