Outline by Rachel Cusk - review by Suzi Feay

Suzi Feay

Silent Witness



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There is a gulf at the heart of this book. The narrator, while undeniably ‘there’ – she is continually observing and commenting – remains an enigma, with little back story. We discover quite late on that she is called Faye, and it’s jarring finally to have a name for this ambiguous entity.

The novel is mostly set in Athens, where Faye has come to teach a creative writing course. But first she must have lunch with a bookish billionaire in a London club. ‘A lot of people want to be writers: there was no reason to think you couldn’t buy your way into it.’ The subsequent plane trip is deftly described. Next to the narrator is ‘a swarthy boy with lolling knees whose fat thumbs sped around the screen of a gaming console’. Later, when she hands him a tray of food, he ‘silently lifted up his gaming console with both hands so that I could place it on the folded-down table in front of him’. Rudeness, egotism and inattention to others are very much on the narrator’s radar. 

More promising is the man on her other side, an elderly Greek, apparently wealthy (though perhaps not as wealthy as the narrator assumes), who tells her with a weary charm of his failed marriages and elicits her number for a hook-up. He is referred to throughout the book as ‘my

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