Rachel Cusk

Faber & Faber
United Kingdom
4 June 2024


Rachel Cusk

A path-breaking novel of art, womanhood and violence, from the author of the Outline trilogy.

A writer hides. A mother dies. A woman is attacked.

In Parade, Rachel Cusk creates a new documentary voice that operates on the border between fiction and reality. It braids imagined characters with the actual, experience with the philosophical, to altering effect.


Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy was so innovative and exciting that it transformed how many people think about fiction. Cusk’s new novel successfully continues her inventive style.

It starts with a famous artist who begins painting scenes that are upside down. While this inversion disturbs his wife, the art world is rapturous with praise. There is an array of characters referred to only as G. In addition to the artist who paints upside down, there is a female artist named G, who closely resembles the artist Louise Bourgeois; a successful filmmaker, who fears the disapproval of his mother and so makes films under an alias; a female artist married to a controlling man, who she cannot leave because he will not let their daughter go. There is also a character known as ‘I’ or sometimes ‘we’, who is randomly struck down in the street by another woman, and whose mother is slowly dying.

An illuminating conversation at a restaurant after the opening of an exhibition of G’s art speaks to many themes of the novel. After a man has committed suicide by throwing himself off a balcony, the exhibition is closed and speeches cancelled. The dinner guests discuss the imperative to create art, if it is possible for parents to create as freely as artists unencumbered by children, and the constraints of a mind trapped within a body. Throughout the novel, Cusk explores the choices we make throughout life that determine our fate, the egotism and single mindedness required to be a great artist, and how mothers must cleave themselves apart from domesticity to create art.

This is a slim novel packed with brilliant, glittering ideas. I have dog-eared numerous pages for revisiting. Once again, Cusk has produced a powerful, philosophical work that has much to say about an artistic life, being a woman, and, indeed, just being alive.

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