The Bradshaw Variations
Rachel Cusk
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *The Bradshaw Variations* by Rachel Cusk online

The Bradshaw Variations
Rachel Cusk
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
240 pages
March 2010
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

buy this book now or browse millions of other great products at
previous reviewnext review

With a razor-like zeal, Rachel Cusk cuts right to the heart of her English middle-class suburban characters, relishing in their brutal, acerbic, often unhappy marriages as they struggle to raise their children while burdened with work, sex, love, and the misplaced hopes and beliefs of others. There’s a fanatical need to hold on to a sense of class for these people.

Thomas and Tonie Bradshaw and their daughter, Alexa, live on picaresque Montague Street, a suburb of “grandeur and ruination” just an hour’s drive from London. Of late, Thomas and Tonie have been drifting apart. Tonie has been appointed to a new job of a university English department, and her work now spreads around Alexa’s presences and Thomas’s absences.

Thomas is a stay-at-home dad, taking piano lessons in the afternoons while exacting his promise to be more attentive to Alexa. While Thomas is as “beautifully turned as a musical instrument,” Tonie grows increasingly frustrated, wanting to impose her will on him. Going to work on the train, she looks at men and yearns for self-expression, perhaps something more than Thomas can offer. Obviously this couple is going through an adjustment process, as though life has simply hardened around them in all its new forms.

Other Bradshaws appear: Thomas’s brother Howard, his wife, Claudia, and their three children live a mile or so away. Howard annoys everyone with his jesting nature, while Claudia cuts like a knife with her caustic judgments. Both are terribly bourgeois, regaling their visitors with stories of new heights of tastelessness - "the outdoor Jacuzzis and the obscene statuary."

Cusk imbues this people with an intemperate cruelty and a kind of fierce neurosis. I’m not sure I particularly care about the Bradshaw brothers, their wives, or any of the other people who circle their lives. I did feel some compassion when an illness shakes everyone up, and we see Tonie and Thomas move forward into a future as full and fluid as the past appeared desiccated and fixed.

The author is a master of metaphor, digging deep into her characters’ inner lives while exposing their endless capacity for undisclosed suffering. Still, their repressive passions, staunchness, and selfish ways of loving ultimately left me rather bored and uninspired. I’m a fan of Rachel Cusk’s work, and here she certainly posits some compelling themes - the right way to live, the value of success, what it means to love - yet the memories of the Bradshaws' trials are short-lived, ultimately translating into something tiresome and forgettable.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2010

Also by Rachel Cusk:

buy *The Bradshaw Variations* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.