Rachel Cusk

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Rachel Cusk
Born (1967-02-08) 8 February 1967 (age 55)
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
EducationNew College, Oxford
Notable worksAftermath: On Marriage and Separation (2012)
The Outline Trilogy: Outline (2014), Transit (2017) & Kudos (2018)

Rachel Cusk (born 8 February 1967)[1] is a British novelist and writer.

Childhood and education[edit]

Cusk was born in Saskatoon to British parents in 1967, the second of four children with an older sister and two younger brothers, and spent much of her early childhood in Los Angeles.[1][2] She moved to her parents' native Britain in 1974,[1] settling in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.[3] She comes from a wealthy Catholic family, and was educated at St Mary's Convent in Cambridge.[1] She studied English at New College, Oxford.[4]


Cusk has written eleven novels, four works of non-fiction, and adapted Medea for the London theatre Almeida.

She published her first novel, Saving Agnes in 1993 which received the Whitbread First Novel Award.[5] Its themes of femininity and social satire remained central to her work over the next decade. In responding to the formal problems of the novel representing female experience, she began to work in non-fiction. She has published two autobiographical accounts of motherhood and divorce: A Life's Work and Aftermath.[6][3] Cusk has been a professor of creative writing at Kingston University.[1][7]

Cusk's 2014 novel, Outline, was shortlisted for the Folio Prize,[8] the Goldsmiths Prize[9] and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.[10] In 2003, Cusk was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'.[11]

After a long period of consideration, Cusk began working in a new form that represented personal experience while avoiding the politics of subjectivity and literalism and remaining free from narrative convention. That project became a trilogy (Outline, Transit, and Kudos). Judith Thurman in The New Yorker wrote: "Many experimental writers have rejected the mechanics of storytelling, but Cusk has found a way to do so without sacrificing its tension."[5] The novel, giving fiction a radical "new design". Outline was one of The New York Times's top 5 novels of 2015.[12]

Reviewing Outline in The New York Times, Heidi Julavits wrote: "While the narrator is rarely alone, reading Outline mimics the sensation of being underwater, of being separated from other people by a substance denser than air. But there is nothing blurry or muted about Cusk's literary vision or her prose: Spend much time with this novel and you'll become convinced she is one of the smartest writers alive."[13]

Reviewing her novel, Transit, critic Helen Dunmore writing for The Guardian commended Cusk's "brilliant, insightful prose", adding, "Cusk is now working on a level that makes it very surprising that she has not yet won a major literary prize".[14]

In The New York Times review of Transit, Dwight Garner said the novel offers "transcendental reflections", and that he was waiting more eagerly for Kudos, the last novel of Rachel Cusk's trilogy, than for that of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle series.[15]

Reviews of Kudos, the last novel of Cusk's trilogy, were largely positive.[16][17] Writing for The New Yorker, Katy Waldman called it "a book about failure that is not, in itself, a failure. In fact, it is a breathtaking success."[18]

Cusk’s novel Second Place was published in 2021. It is inspired by the memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan, who hosted D.H. Lawrence at her property at the Taos art colony in New Mexico, in 1924. In this work, Cusk’s experimentation with the form of the novel continued. Andrew Schenker, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, wrote: "If the Outline trilogy had seemed to push beyond the novel while still working within the form, then Second Place suggests that Cusk may have outgrown the genre entirely."[19] Cleveland Review of Books reviewed the book, saying that "the narratorial absence is part of what compels one through the novels, for it acts like a filter, distilling all other people’s tales down to their most philosophically bare, their most ethically ambiguous, their most painfully isolated."[20]

In 2015, The Almeida commissioned and originally produced Cusk's adaption of Medea as Medea - Euripides, A New Version.[21] In Cusk's adaptation, Medea does not murder her children.[5] Reviewing Medea, the Financial Times commented: "Rachel Cusk is known as an unsparing writer in the territory of marital break-up".[22]

Personal life[edit]

After a brief first marriage to a banker,[1] Cusk was married to photographer Adrian Clarke, with whom she has two daughters.[23] The couple separated in 2011. Their divorce became a major topic in Cusk's writings.[3]

Cusk is married to retail consultant and artist Siemon Scamell-Katz.[24][25] They live in London and Norfolk with Cusk's daughters.[5] In 2021, the couple announced plans to move to Paris, a protest in part against the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.[26]





  • Medea, Euripides - A new Version, 2015, Commissioned by and originally produced at the Almeida theatre in London, UK.

Introductions and forewords

Awards and prizes[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • "Suburban Worlds: Rachel Cusk and Jon McGregor." In B. Schoene. The Cosmopolitan Novel. Edinburgh University Press, 2009.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barber, Lynn (30 August 2009). "Rachel Cusk: A fine contempt". The Observer. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  2. ^ Bethune, Brian (26 October 2015). "Rachel Cusk: 'On a winding road in the dark'". Maclean's. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Kellaway, Kate (24 August 2014). "Rachel Cusk: 'Aftermath was creative death. I was heading into total silence'". The Observer. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  4. ^ Heti, Sheila. "The Art of Fiction No. 246". The Paris Review: 35–63.
  5. ^ a b c d Thurman, Judith (31 July 2017). "Rachel Cusk Gut-Renovates the Novel". The New Yorker. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  6. ^ Cusk, Rachel (21 March 2008). "I Was Only Being Honest". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Rachel Cusk". Poets & Writers. 19 June 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  8. ^ "The Folio Prize announces 2015 shortlist". The Folio Prize. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  9. ^ Flood, Alison (1 October 2014). "Goldsmiths book prize shortlist includes crowd-funded first novel". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  10. ^ Flood, Alison (13 April 2015). "Baileys women's prize for fiction shortlists debut alongside star names". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Granta list of Best Young British Novelists". 2003.
  12. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2015". The New York Times. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  13. ^ Julavits, Heidi (11 January 2015). "Rachel Cusk's Outline". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  14. ^ Dunmore, Helen (28 August 2016). "Transit by Rachel Cusk – a woman's struggle to rebuild her life". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Garner, Dwight (17 January 2017). "Rachel Cusk's Transit Offers Transcendent Reflections". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  16. ^ Smee, Sebastian (29 May 2018). "With Kudos, Rachel Cusk completes a literary masterpiece". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  17. ^ Garner, Dwight (21 May 2018). "With Kudos, Rachel Cusk Completes an Exceptional Trilogy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  18. ^ Waldman, Katy (22 May 2018). "Kudos, the Final Volume of Rachel Cusk's "Faye" Trilogy, Completes an Ambitious Act of Refusal". The New Yorker. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  19. ^ "Los Angeles Review of Books". Los Angeles Review of Books. 10 May 2021. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  20. ^ "Where Life Ends and Art Begins: On Rachel Cusk's "Second Place"". Cleveland Review of Books. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  21. ^ "Rachel Cusk interview: 'Medea is about divorce … A couple fighting is an eternal predicament. Love turning to hate'". The Guardian. 3 October 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  22. ^ "Medea, Almeida Theatre, London — review". Financial Times. 4 October 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  23. ^ Cusk, Rachel (17 February 2012). "Rachel Cusk: my broken marriage". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  24. ^ Carponen, Claire. "The $2.7 Million English Coastal Home Of Author Rachel Cusk Hits The Market". Forbes. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Rachel Cusk's house is an austere, experimental, hyper-modern masterpiece. (Shocking, right?)". Literary Hub. 28 August 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  26. ^ Hitchens, Antonia (4 May 2021). "Rachel Cusk's 'Second Place' Might Be the First Pandemic Novel". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  27. ^ "Whitbread Winners 1971-2005" (PDF). Costa Book Awards. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  28. ^ "Previous winners of the Somerset Maugham Awards". The Society of Authors. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  29. ^ "Whitbread 2003 shortlists". The Daily Telegraph. 10 November 2003. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  30. ^ "In the Fold". The Man Booker Prizes. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  31. ^ "2007 Shortlist". Women's Prize for Fiction. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  32. ^ "The Scotiabank Giller Prize Presents Its 2015 Shortlist". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Canada. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  33. ^ "The Scotiabank Giller Prize Presents Its 2017 Shortlist". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Canada. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  34. ^ Gatti, Tom (26 September 2018). "Rachel Cusk makes Goldsmiths Prize shortlist for the third time". New Statesman. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  35. ^ "Ivan Coyote, David A. Robertson & Julie Flett among finalists for $25K Governor General's Literary Awards". CBC Books, October 14, 2021.

External links[edit]