Jane Rye

Taking Off to Tuscany

The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy

By

Faber and Faber 240pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Rachel Cusk has written three highly praised novels and an observant and rather funny book about motherhood. This short but discursive travelogue begins oddly with an account of how the author, as a child, ‘would often be woken by noises from the road’ – ‘noises of drunken revelry’ transmuting into ‘inchoate monologues’ and ‘unearthly groans and shrieks’ that went on for hours. No explanation or interpretation of this curious phenomenon is offered and it seems to have no bearing on what follows – except, I suppose, to establish the author as a particularly sensitive and imaginative little girl who lay awake in the dark a lot. She lived in Bristol at the time, in elegant Clifton, where ‘the slaving past of the city was always present to me’. The situation in time and place of the opening chapter is confusing, but by the end of the second page Cusk is dismissing the entire population of contemporary Bristol as hard-hearted bigots – ‘Man, woman and child, they found sensitivity intolerable. Nothing irked them more than the liberal conscience’ – and I was beginning to wonder if ‘Ravings from a Padded Cell’ might not be a more suitable subtitle than ‘A Summer in Italy’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • One woman 'travelled round the south of India with a retinue of 750 people, fourteen elephants, two racing camels f… ,
    • Stuck for a gift idea for Father's Day? Subscribe to Literary Review and get a FREE copy of 'An Impeccable Spy' –… ,
    • 'Gone. All gone. The ease, the pleasure, the effortless eloquence' From May 1995, Margaret Forster's withering rev… ,
    • RT : SO excited to tell you about this event! 😆 The amazing digital colourist, will be joining w… ,
    • 'Peters was unashamed and evidently unshamable, an impostor who wholly inhabited his fabrications and who indignant… ,
    • ‘At every waking moment Barbara Hepworth was aware of herself as a woman paving the way in a man’s world’ From the… ,
    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,