I stayed up late to finish this book last night. I’d finally gotten to about page 300 and thought: finally, something is about to happen . . . we’re getting to the point. But alas, no. Literally, when I finished the last page of the book, I turned the page and said: is my book defective? Because it couldn’t possibly end there. But after I checked the page count on Amazon, I realized that it was in fact over. And then I wanted to give a frustrated shriek.

The book was an odd one for me. I often have a difficult time getting into a book. In fact, it’s the very rare book that I don’t fight with at least the first 30-50 pages trying to get into it. But when I do, it’s usually next to impossible to get me to set it down before it’s done. The Country Life didn’t get me interested until about 150 pages into it. And I only kept reading because I thought it was a “city girl deals with transformation into country life and this is how it happened” kind of book, which I usually adore. But it wasn’t really a book about that at all.

The whole book was about some neurotic, if not actually truly unbalanced, woman who ran away from her life. We’re told that she did it because she saw her life fully mapped out before her and she wanted to escape that. But you never get the feeling that that was it. I think the handicapped charge that she is companion to in the country ultimately hits it on the head toward the end of the book: she’s a coward and she’s selfish. The story starts with Stella, the neurotic escapist, writing some rather scathing letters to people in her soon-to-be former life. And I understood that. I think we’ve all had a moment or two where writing such a letter sounded awfully satisfying. Ms. Cusk makes them deliberately vague so that she has somewhere to take the book later on. But she doesn’t.

The whole story is a series of random things that the author mentions once or twice that seem relevant, possibly important to the story, and then she never brings them up again. By the end of the story, I think that Stella is merely a lush and wonder if she is actually going to end up bedding her charge at some point either in a drunken moment or in some contrived situation that sounds unselfish but is in fact the ultimate in selfishness.

This book gets two thumbs down from me. A total waste of my time. The writing was sometimes well-done and at others truly horrendous. The plot ebbs and flows along until you realize that there actually is no plot. The story isn’t plausible and by the end, it’s not that you care what happens, you just have a 350 page investment upon which you feel entitled to having something be delivered. Boo.

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