The Last Supper

A Summer in Italy

Rachel Cusk

Picador

Download Image Rachel Cusk The Last Supper

Available Formats

BookeBook

Casting off a northern winter and an orderly life, a family decides to sell everything and go to Italy--to search for art and its meanings, for freedom from routine, for a different path into the future. Their three-month journey around the Italy of Raphael and rented villas, the Piero della Francesca trail and the tourist furnaces of Amalfi, the simple glories of pasta and gelato. Through the lens of Italian culture, landscape, and cuisine, Rachel Cusk reconsiders our impulses toward indulgence and escape, inspiration and succor, creativity and domestic life.

Connect with the Author

Rachel Cusk

Related Links


Sign Up for
Author Updates

Macmillan Newsletter


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

Book Excerpts

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

 

Self-Portrait, with dinosaurs

 

At night I would often be woken by noise from the road, and afterward would lie awake for hours, unable to sleep. The noise, which was of a strange drunken revelry, would usually begin long after the pubs had closed, though in the deeps of the night I never knew exactly what time it was. I was merely summoned by the sound of unearthly groans and shrieks outside my window that seemed to belong neither to the world nor to my dreams but somewhere in between. They might have been men’s voices or women’s,

Read the full excerpt

Back

Reviews

Praise for The Last Supper

“[A] fine, exultant book . . . Praise be . . . for novelist Rachel Cusk, who brings to her three-month sojourn in Italy a characteristic strangeness and charm.” —Olivia Laing, The Observer (London)

“Elegantly written and astutely observed . . . Cusk’s assessments of art are wonderfully idiosyncratic . . . Rigorous and compelling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A writer of almost electrifying intensity . . . [Cusk’s] rigorous intellect is always at play, whether she’s writing about a tomato or a tomb, and it is this very archness, this passion, that gives her beautiful, moving book such power. Indeed, her detailed examination of the tiny nuances that embroider family life gives her account of her Italian summer the kind of luminosity she seeks, and finds, in visual art.” —Hilary Fannin, The Irish Times

“Cusk is often bracing and rigorous, . . . applying her phrases like the brushstrokes of the masters she so admires. This is the finest memoir of Italy I have read since—twenty years ago more or less—Jonathan Keates’ Italian Journeys made Italy suddenly seem  irresistible and present in all its dimensions. Cusk makes Italy sing.” —Tom Adair, The Scotsman

“The traumatic juxtaposition of sublime paintings and tourist tat inspires Cusk to writing that will sit honourably in an anthology with Byron and Forster . . . Travel writing about Italy might be an oversubscribed genre, but The Last Supper more than earns its place at the table.” —Celia Brayfield, The Times (London)

“[Cusk] writes with the intelligence, wit, and keen eye for detail demanded by any kind of reporting.” —The New Yorker

“Each sentence is crisply perfect, binding brilliantly detailed descriptions to sensitive, sharp observations.” —Bookforum
 
“A fascinating inquiry into expectations and our desire to rigidly control our lives.”  —Los Angeles Times
 
“There’s a reason for the unrelenting stream of literature about moving to Italy—it’s everyone’s fantasy. Cusk details her family’s three-month tour of the country in this delightful romp through rented villas, Amalfi beaches and plenty of pasta and gelato.” —More
 
“Engaging. . . 'The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy' is not your typical rosemary-scented, ready-for-cable ode to renovating a rustic house and rubbing shoulders with jolly peasants. A very talented novelist and observer, Cusk has a knack for drilling down into the thick of things and finding strangeness in even the most ordinary experiences.. . . The author approaches everything she sees through the prism of history and literature, allowing herself to be captivated by her surroundings even while she is trying desperately to detach herself from the tourists all around. Cusk may hate tourists -- her descriptions of them are usually hilarious and sometimes cruel—but she makes a passionate, sharp-tongued tour guide in this book about fleeing the ordinary in search of something beautiful.” —Salon
 
“Charming, restless, idiosyncratic hybrid of classic family road trip and probing personal essay where the roadside attractions include Pompeii, the Basilica of Saint Francis and Etruscan tombs, and the big questions on aesthetics and truth and human nature that such sites elicit are smartly explored . . . improvisatory and sensual.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Unlike day-tripping tourists, the thoughtful visitor doesn’t know in advance what will seize her attention. A basket of bread and tomatoes, a Raphael Madonna, a storm that breaks with terrible beauty over the Ligurian coast, the progressively gothic hostelries through which the travelers wend their way home: All are fleetingly illumined by Cusk’s exquisite prose, though none more hauntingly than the predawn English countryside, “like a sleeping baby . . . somehow new and unmarked,’’ from which they set off for their summer abroad.” —Boston Globe
 
“Cusk takes us from Tuscany and Umbria south to Naples and Capri, writing throughout in the present tense, which makes the journey more immediate, and in the minimalist shorthand of a Raymond Carver short story: ‘The fireflies scatter in drifts, like embers’; ‘There is a bang at the door: It is a man.’ There are several nice takes on food, history and landscape, and splendid observations on artists, as when she writes of Cimabue, that ‘he restored to the painted human form its softness and mortality, its animal nature and the grandeur of its emotion.’ —Providence Journal
 
“British novelist Rachel Cusk’s The Last Supper is a perceptive account of the pleasures and perils that resulted from uprooting her family from England to the Italian countryside for a winter” —Travel + Leisure, “Great Summer Reading”
 
“[Cusk]’s got guts . . . The traumatic juxtaposition of sublime paintings and tourist tat inspires Cusk to writing that will sit honourably in an anthology with Byron and Forster . . . Travel writing about Italy might be an oversubscribed genre, but The Last Supper more than earns its place at the table.” —Celia Brayfield, The Times (London)
 
“What Cusk does not learn, and doesn’t need to learn, is how to write. As always in her work, there is a scattering of archaisms (‘commence,’ ‘venture,’ ‘outlay’) that sometimes gives the prose an archness verging on the pretentious, but the intensity of her gaze can also give rise to descriptions of beauty and precision. Alert to nuance, she will catch the ‘blanched severity’ in a face, the sadness ‘that you see in the eyes of people who were unhappy children,’ the self-consciousness of an American honeymooner with ‘the faux-heroic look of a Kennedy.’ And her descriptions of Italian food—pizza ’like a smiling face’ that ‘assuages the fear of complexity,’ dough ‘as pliant and soothing’ as a mother’s breast—are pure joy.” —Christina Patterson, New Statesman

Reviews from Goodreads

Back

About the Author

Rachel Cusk

Rachel Cusk was born in 1967. She is the author of the memoir A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother and of six novels: Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award; The Temporary; The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Lucky Ones, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award; In the Fold; and Arlington Park, which was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. In 2003, Cusk was chosen as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. She lives in Brighton, England.

Rachel Cusk

Adrian Clarke
Rachel Cusk

Back

Buy the Book

Available Formats and Book Details

The Last Supper
A Summer in Italy
Rachel Cusk

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
April 2010
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312429652
ISBN10: 0312429657
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 256 pages, Includes 30 black-and-white illustrations
$15.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429930598
ISBN10: 1429930594
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 256 pages, 30 Black-and-White Illustrations
$9.99
Back

From The Publisher

Picador

Latest on Facebook

Latest on Twitter

Back