In preparation to read Transit (as part of my Giller short-list reading), I chose to read Outline, the the first book of what will be a trilogy. It is a unique book, that reads like a series of linked short stories written within a few days of the main character’s life. There is no real plot, no huge drama and the reader does not learn too much about the narrator. The book is full of a collection of interesting conversations with characters she meets during her sojourn from London to teach a writing class.
Described by the Guardian as semi-autobiographical, Outline is a story of contrast which begins with innocent chatter en route to Greece. The writer learns a few details about the main character including that she is a divorced mother as she engages in conversation. As she flies, her seat mate (who she refers to throughout the book as her neighbour) divulges his version of his own life story including multiple divorces and family challenges. She asks questions and he tells his side of the story. She learns more about him when she meets up with him for boat rides and swimming.
She teaches an interesting group of students that each tell their own unique stories through the writing prompts she provides. In between classes she meets with other writers, the neighbour and prior to her flight then next occupant of the rental apartment. The next renter arrives in the middle of the night and spills her own story as she eats honey direct from a jar.
The writing is beautifully arranged, it is smooth and easy to read but packs the power of contemplation and contrast. The reader reflects on their own stories, their own bias and the polarization of what we seek and later try to change.
I enjoyed Rachel Cusk’s writing and look forward to finishing Transit. I am excited to hear Cusk speak at the Between the Pages, Scotiabank Giller event on Monday and hope to get my books signed!