The Country Life A Novel

Rachel Cusk




Trade Paperback

352 Pages


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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Stella Benson answers a classified ad for an au pair, arriving in a tiny Sussex village that's home to a family that is slightly larger than life. Her hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them is low and remote. It soon becomes clear that Stella falls short of even the meager specifications her new role requires, most visibly in the area of "aptitude for the country life." But what drove her to leave her home, job, and life in London in the first place? Why has she severed all ties with her parents? Why is she so reluctant to discuss her past? And who, exactly, is Edward?

The Country Life is a rich and subtle novel about embarrassment, awkwardness, and being alone; about families, or the lack of them; and about love in some peculiar guises. Rachel Cusk's widely praised novel is a captivating tale of one young woman's adventures in self-discovery.


Praise for The Country Life

"A sophisticated confection . . . For this delightful novel about the governess from hell, maybe only the word 'wicked' will do."—The New York Times Book Review

"A brilliant oxymorona serious farce so subtle that its command of the reader must called insidius . . . Bright, candid, and modestly humorous, Stella Benson lures us into complicity . . . Cusk's ability to keep us interested in innumerable human collisions is uncanny. We may finally learn Stella's secrets, but she remains as fascinatingly indeciperable as anyone we know."—The New Yorker

"Enchanting . . . A funny, modern Jane Eyre combined with an Anne Tyler-esque tale about escaping from the pressures of an unhappy urban life."—Newsday

"An oddly ingratiating social comedy . . . Smart, literate, offbeat, confiding . . . A pleasure."
—The Boston Globe

"Hilarious . . . Stella is strange because strangeness is part of the human condition; she's just a little more aware of it than most people."—Village Voice Literary Supplement

"Smart, charming, and often outright hilarious."—Entertainment Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Rachel Cusk's debut, Saving Agnes, won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel in 1993. She lives in Oxford.
Read the full excerpt


  • Rachel Cusk

  • Rachel Cusk's debut, Saving Agnes, won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel in 1993. She lives in Oxford.
  • Rachel Cusk Adrian Clarke