It is as compulsive as a thriller although its plot (pregnancy, birth, colic, sleepless nights) is - naturally - a shambles and its cast tiny and undistinguished (mother, father, baby, doctor, health visitor, a few friends). Its time scheme is wild - vertiginously unchronological, as if to convey the disorientation of fatigue: babies destroy all sense of conventional time ... Cusk is not political or clinically depressed, or making up stories. She serves her subject - and is shaken by it ... Words are her way of staying adult, separate, fluently mutinous. She also subjects childcare manuals - Penelope Leach, Doctor Spock et al - to satirical scrutiny; her book should be read alongside them because her writing is such an antidote to their bland, knowing prose.
...writing a memoir of motherhood seems like career suicide. Although no one told Cusk that, and so she's gone off and written a book that is funny and smart and refreshingly akin to a war diary -- sort of Apocalypse Baby Now, with descriptions of 'the anarchy of nights, the fog of days . . . friendlessness and exile from the past' that will trigger in some mothers soul-scorching flashbacks ... Yet her reluctance to use her admirable skills as a fiction writer is the book's one misstep ... Where her fiction can seem to fall into obvious genres -- a woman's search for love, a mad country caper -- A Life's Work is wholly original and unabashedly true.
A powerful, often funny account of pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering that doesn’t gloss over the pain, mystery, and confusion—but does celebrates the wonder ... as much the eloquent story of her daughter’s struggle to find a niche in the universe and of a hard-won but wonderful relationship between mother and daughter as it is of grievances.
Her dry, honest style is a refreshing change for anyone seeking to understand the daily realities of undertaking such an enormous responsibility. Despite a tone that is at times bleak and foreboding, Cusk perfectly captures the inherent conflict between the pleasures known before baby and those that the baby brings...