Friday, 28 March 2008

A Life's Work

Rachel Cusk has been a favourite author of mine ever since I read A Country Life. She is about to publish a new edition of her non-fiction book on motherhood, A Life's Work. I read the first edition of this as a relatively new mother, and wept buckets over virtually every page. It is a painfully honest account of the conflict of emotions which motherhood evokes.

I remember at the time being amazed by the reaction of various women to the book, particularly those who fancied themselves the vanguard of Motherhood with a capital M. These people poured scorn on Cusk from a great height, all but openly called her a heartless bitch, accused her of not loving her children, of not using the word Love once in her book. Bollocks, frankly. Every page of that book resonated with Love. It just didn't wear the face these women wanted it to wear, the milk-smeared grimace of unconditional devotion, of rapturous sacrifice before the altar of Motherhood.

Cusk has defended her book, and considered the response to the first edition, in a recent article in The Guardian, which you can read
here. It's a chilling reminder of the tyranny of others, in particular the brutal piety meted out by the sanctimonious to those who dare to lift the Liberty printed skirts of the maternity frock and speak of the wreckage that lies beneath.

Cusk deserves a medal for her courage in returning to this fight, which clearly left her shaken and saddened. I expect she will be villified all over again. In Cusk's words, 'I like women less than I did.' And who can blame her?


Vanessa G said...

I attended a workshop led by Rachel Cusk at the 2005 Small Wonder Festival. Great experience.

Sarah Hilary said...

Lucky you! I do like Cusk's writing, very much. I think it's brave of her to run the gamut a second time with this new edition of A Life's Work. Have you read Anne Enright's book on motherhood? If so, is it good?