Aftermath by Rachel Cusk Blog Post by Lucy Goodall


In “Aftermath,” Cusk shows her ability to portray her experiences in a frank yet relatable way. When she tells us that “my sins will not devour me but will be dutifully paid off over a lifetime in small increments, like a mortgage,” the reader automatically relates to her. Her challenging and almost clinical version of such a highly-charged subject is what makes her work valuable. By demonstrating the pitfalls of motherhood and family life in such a way, they become more realistic than ever before. Cusk’s literature doesn’t display an ‘angel in the house’ figure like other novels about motherhood. Instead she portrays her experience with motherhood and marriage breakdown as a loss of her identity.


11 responses to this post.

  1. By openly discussing the breakdown of her marriage and motherhood, Cusk exposes herself to the reader and to criticism. Though numerous women writers have written about their personal life for money, this was still seen as rather controversial for Cusk to do so.


  2. Posted by annakhan on October 26, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    By openly discussing the breakdown of her marriage and motherhood, Cusk exposes herself to the reader and to criticism. Though numerous women writers have written about their personal life for money, this was still seen as rather controversial for Cusk to do so.


  3. Posted by Neeti Rao on October 26, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    It isn’t socially acceptable for a woman to publicise the breakdown of a marriage and become financially independent and stable. It challenges the social conventions which portray women as the dependent other. Also, the patriarchal society has encouraged women to suffer in silence – it is the untold truth and rule which women are taught to live with and in this instance when a woman like Cusk bravely writes about the failings of the patriarchy, it is a full fledged rebellion against the patriarchy. Cusk confronts the ideology of dependent women by setting an example of herself amongst the female readers, she encourages them to speak out and live a life which isn’t validated by the patriarchy. This is extremely commendable as Cusk projects feminine power in her work – power which is disregarded and discouraged by the society we live in.


  4. Posted by Afshan Ahmad on October 26, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    Cusk confronts the societal expectations of women by explaining her experience of marriage and motherhood. She manages, rather effectively, to highlight the ways in which the stereotypical feminine characteristics instead distance women from femininity by weakening their own individual personalities. Lucy’s reference a woman’s loss of identity is what stands out for me. Because not only does Cusk manage to rebuke the patriarchal ideology which has influenced and governed society and women for so long, but she also manages to display the ways in which the loss of patriarchy can take away from women.


  5. Posted by Sofie Korstadhagen on October 27, 2016 at 9:58 am

    I find often that women who write books about marriage or children tend to sugar coat it, only showing the positive sides and encouraging other women to act exactly the same way. I have noticed in my country, first time mothers are experiencing an even bigger pressure to act perfect more than before, caring more about how other people will view their lives. I think Cusk is a fresh breath of air into this negative direction of views on marriage and parenthood.


  6. Posted by k1441692 on October 27, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Cusk allows herself to be vulnerable to other women, (which is usually a painful thing to do) but she does so in such a way only respect can be rewarded to her. By allowing the reader and society to critique the breakdown of a marriage, and feel the raw emotions she felt during that experience. Like Sofie said above, these things are often sugar coated.


  7. Posted by Shahera Hannan on October 27, 2016 at 10:46 am



  8. Posted by Kristine Aasland on October 27, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Cusk writes about space in her book, and how the idea of home might change. On the one hand, the home can be a safe space. ‘in other people’s houses, we become aware of our own nakedness.’ (p. 63), Cusk writes, and comments on how she and her daughters seek refuge and rarely leave their own home after the separation. On the other hand, there seems to be danger in the home as well. ‘I wander through the dark house, checking the locks on the doors and windows, for it feels as though the outside is coming in’ (p. 46) Cusk does not feel safe in her own home either. This might link to Cusk’s questioning of her own identity, and its instability post marriage, as she has to experience and understand place all over again and in new ways.


  9. Posted by k1315323 on October 27, 2016 at 11:36 am

    I found Cusk’s brutal honesty on marital breakdowns refreshing, as she was able to articulate the female burden in marriage. I agree with Lucy’s point of Cusk portraying a more accurate account on wife and motherhood. Through her frank breakdowns of what went wrong in her marriage; many other women are able to emphasise.


  10. Posted by Reiss-Rene on October 27, 2016 at 11:37 am

    What I find quite interesting about Aftermath is Cusk’s notion of equality in a marriage. Instead of seeing equality as the stereotypical idea of the woman staying at home and the husband going to work to provide for his family, she expresses her desire to live with her husband “as two hybrids, each of us half male and half female. This was equality, was it not?” For me, this is a breath of fresh air and brings forth the idea of ‘the new reality’ as it highlights how women’s values and desires have changed over the time. I quite like the images that Cusk evokes with the idea of the jigsaw pieces and how “it’s only from far away that the image seems complete.” This again is key when thinking of the concept of ‘the new reality’ of the role of woman in marriage as like she states that it may represent a kind of progress, the idea of an equal partnership (whereby men take on more domestic roles), when you look into the relationship more closely, it in fact emphasises inability for the patriarchal society to adapt.


  11. Posted by Ashley Foley on October 27, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    I found it interesting the comparisons that come to mind about both Cusk and Linda from Mainsfields reading. It is interesting to see how how Cusk’s own memoirs can give a clearer view into Mainsfield’s Linda and why she detached herself from her children. She can give us the idea that Linda disconnects herself in a way to save the last bit of her own identity. How her detachment, almost divorce, from her maternial side separates her from societies grouped identity of women. Not only is Cusk trying to save her own identity but, as her writing does become relatable and connectable, she attempts to save the identity of women as a whole.


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