February 2017 Review | Just the Right Book! | Outline by Rachel Cusk

Just the Right Book! is different than the other book subscriptions I’m reviewing this year in that a real life person actually picks a book out just for me – as opposed to picking out one book to go to all subscribers. There are numerous subscriptions to choose from. I choose a 12-month softcover subscription, which cost me $240 and I filled out a fairly long and involved profile to indicate what genres, authors, etc. I’m interested in.

You may remember from my previous Just the Right Book! review that last month there was a bit of a snafu. If you’re too lazy to click that ole link, I will just tell you that essentially they sent me a book that was sort of the opposite of what I asked for. I ended up giving them some feedback about it and it turns out there was an error on their end with the way the order came through and I was assured that future books would be more to my liking.

Outline book cover Rachel CuskAs it turns out, that is true, at least for February, because Outline by Rachel Cusk was exactly what I asked for: Literary fiction that was below the radar and I was likely not to have read. In fact, I hadn’t heard of it or her and I did end up enjoying it. So thanks, book person who picked this book!

There are a lot of opinions about this book on GoodReads and as printed by major publications, and a lot of those opinions are less than stellar. I’ve seen more than one person say something to the effect that this book is like reading the notes of someone in a writing workshop. I think that’s not entirely false but I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to be true, so there’s that.

As the name implies, Outline does have more of an outline vibe than a fully functional novel vibe. The basic premise is that an author has traveled from London to Athens to teach a writing workshop. Each chapter is a sort of glimpse into a different character and how that character interacted with the protagonist.

Some characters come back a few times, and some chapters feature more than one character. I found them all to be interesting and, yes, each chapter could have been fleshed out into a novel of its own right, but this book felt finished to me – or as finished as a book of interesting and well-written experiments can be.

I should note that I am most decidedly not a plot-driven reader, and I can imagine that those who are would be thoroughly annoyed / put out by / angry at / distraught by / tired of/ impatient with / generally unhappy by this novel. For me though, it was interesting, lively, and beautifully written.

Rating: 7/10 

Recommended for: Other writers, people who like language and character studies more than they like plot, people interested in Athens

Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace test? Yes

Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: N / N / Y / Y

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