Arlington Park A Novel

Rachel Cusk




Trade Paperback

256 Pages


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Shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction
A San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of the Year
 Arlington Park, a modern-day English suburb very much like its American counterparts, is a place devoted to the profitable ordinariness of life. Amidst its leafy avenues and comfortable houses, its residents live out the dubious accomplishments of civilization: material prosperity, personal freedom, and moral indifference. In Arlington Park, men work, women look after children, and people generally do what's expected of them. It's a world awash in contentment but empty of belief, and riven with strange anxieties. How are they to know right from wrong? How should they use their knowledge of other people's sufferings? What is the relationship of politics to their own domestic arrangements? Set over the course of a single rainy day, the novel moves from one household to another, and through the passing hours conducts a deep examination of its characters' lives: of Juliet, enraged at the victory of men over women in family life; of Amanda, warding off thoughts of death with obsessive housework; of Solly, who confronts her own buried femininity in the person of her Italian lodger; of Maisie, despairing at the inevitability with which beauty is destroyed; and of Christine, whose troubled, hilarious spirit presides over Arlington Park and the way of life it represents.


Praise for Arlington Park

"New and compelling . . . is Cusk's cool and precise depiction of her characters' inner lives . . . [A] fine, entertaining novel. Cusk's glory is her style, cold and hard and devastatingly specific, empathetic but not sympathetic."—Los Angeles Times
"What makes the book brilliant is Cusk's fearlessness about her subject matter . . . This is typical Cusk, careening through class anxiety and ending up somewhere new and unexpected."—Claire Dederer, Newsday

"In her wonderfully nuanced Arlington Park, Rachel Cusk . . . teases out the story of [Arlington Park’s] women, wittily dissecting their petty jealousies, wrenching loneliness, frustrations with motherhood, and alienation from the meaning of their lives. Cusk's genius is that she does all this, piercing the cold heart of modern suburbia, without ever preaching or turning against her characters. Her women are fully fleshed . . . and caught up in the kind of domestic dramas that Jane Austen would have had a ball with. This is a brooding book, and yet at the end . . . it's impossible not to feel real warmth for Arlington Park and its spirited denizens."O, the Oprah Magazine

"The only perfect thing in [Cusk’s] imperfect world is the prose that describes it. Cusk has always been a writer of exquisite style, and this novel shows her at her very best. Aptness and originality are matched with an anthropologist’s impartiality . . . Hers is not a comfortable world to inhabit, but it is always rewarding."—Cressida Connolly, The Daily Telegraph

"Rachel Cusk is particularly adept at treading the line between humour and menace . . . Resolutely anti-escapist, this is an uncomfortable but essential book."—Viv Groskop, The Observer (London)

"No one has written better about female experience . . . Cusk is a writer you might read for the sheer pleasure of the sentences even if her books weren't about anything of consequence. But in fact, they possess remarkable depth to match their remarkable charm and, with unfailing wit and lightness of touch, address such weighty topics as social class, identity, love, money, and family—in short, all the subjects (excepting, I suppose, global warfare) that make fiction interesting to adult readers."—Francine Prose, Bookforum

"Arlington Park is a strikingly good novel, funny, poignant, savage, tender, and appalling. What I like most is the purity of the writing, the beautiful aptness of the language to thought and theme, and the play of wit. The satire has force because it is written from within, and all the characters, however absurd, are trapped, struggling, and deeply human."—Helen Dunmore, author of The Siege and Talking to the Dead, winner of the Orange Prize

“As usual with this deft and astute writer, the prose is elegant, the characterizations spot-on. Frustrated Juliet, obsessive Amanda, conflicted city transplant Maisie, pregnant-yet-again Solly and in particular angrily exuberant, confrontational Christine are wholly believable and uncomfortably familiar. Such is the author's skill that few readers will be able to escape a sense of squirming empathy for these women's frequent bouts of self-pity and vertiginous feeling of not being in control of their relatively privileged lives . . . Accomplished, honest and uncompromising.”Kirkus Reviews

“Cusk is pitch perfect at capturing the dammed-up people that make Arlington Park what it is, so carefully calibrating their doubts and dismissals that they veer straight off the page . . . In her luminous if disturbing study Cusk has done important work in giving them voice.”—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

"In this devastating ensemble novel, Whitbread Award–winner Cusk exposes the roiling inner lives and not-so-quiet desperation of young mothers in the well-to-do London suburb Arlington Park . . . Their plight is an old story, but Cusk makes it incisively vivid."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Arlington Park
All night the rain fell on Arlington Park.The clouds came from the west: clouds like dark cathedrals, clouds like machines, clouds like black blossoms flowering in the arid starlit sky. They came over the English countryside, sunk in its muddled sleep. They came over the low, populous hills where scatterings of lights throbbed in the darkness. At midnight they reached the city, valiantly glittering in its shallow provincial basin. Unseen, they grew like a second city overhead, thickening, expanding, throwing up their savage monuments, their towers, their monstrous, unpeopled palaces
Read the full excerpt


  • Rachel Cusk

  • Rachel Cusk is the Whitbread Award–winning author of Saving Agnes, The Temporary, The Country Life, The Lucky Ones, and In the Fold, and of the memoir A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother. She lives in Bristol, England.
  • Rachel Cusk Adrian Clarke




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