Rachel Cusk’s narrator, Faye, is a writer who is in the process of reorganising her life after the break-up of a long relationship. She moves back to London with her two sons and decides, on the advice of a friend, to buy a ‘bad house in a good street’ rather than the other way round. It needs a massive amount of building work, but that isn’t the half of it: the basement is a council flat occupied by a hellish couple who harass her at every turn.
To an outsider, this purchase seems ill-judged from the outset and the state of the building quickly comes to seem like a metaphor for everything that’s wrong with Faye’s current circumstances. She is self-deprecating and uncomplaining – we don’t even learn her name until later in the novel