And then comes a day when you read a quiet book. So silent that in between the lines, your own thoughts get shape and substance and embrace the content of the book. Outline is a discreet presence, with an author freed of her own body and existence that lives as a mirror to those around.
The remarkable trait of this novel is precisely Rachel Cusk's ability to absolve her narrator of the reader's perceptions and preconceptions, not allowing him or her to label the raconteur into female/male, good/bad, right/wrong. Instead, the mere outline of the yarn spinner gives the reader the opportunity to focus and embrace the true nature of the woman she is. It is one way of getting the reader to be open minded and involved in the narrative, by having him/her fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. The storyteller accepts the shifting in powers, giving all other characters the chance and place to voice their own stories, reflecting themselves into the mirror of her own self.
We are told that Faye, the storyteller, is fifty, mother of two, a writer flying to Athens for a writing class. On the plane, she sits next to an old and wealthy Greek man with a beak of a nose. He starts telling her the story of his life, the three failed marriages, giving her thorough details about his children, his wives, his challenges, his family members. Faye is invited to spend time on his boat which she does in-between her meetings with her Greek friends and students. She takes a stand of invisibility, allowing herself to breathe in the presence of others, but shifting the spotlights on those around her and their stories.
The stories of her friends and students build themselves into other stories, like an interminable chain of lives on a string. We walk the exhibition of voices, a distant, yet alive chorus that resonates with Faye's sensitivity and discreet self. All the challenging themes that haunt our lives -marriage, children, divorce, parenthood, identity- are given a voice through the other characters, allowing Faye to be a silent observant, a passive onlooker. Her female subjectivity exults from the voice and shape she gives to these characters, painting them into different, yet similar bodies, all facets of herself.
This is quite a refreshing piece of work where the difficulty of the technique Rachel Cusk used, speaks of the pleasure she took in this story meant to gratify, at least, the desire of this reader. I felt immersed in the two-day string of conversations that make the novel, in the storyteller's ability to get people to open up to her, while not asking too many questions. It may sound unreal or even look like a writing trick Rachel Cusk employed to draw the attention less or at all upon Faye, yet it is the way it feels at times -you want to stay low into a comfortable layer of passivity, simply spinning yourself around the stories of others. It is intimate without disclosing much. It is how life feels like at times. However, there is no lassitude in listening to others for by actively reading between the lines, sometimes essential little truths about yourself reveal themselves.