A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother

Rachel Cusk

A powerful and honest insight into what it is to become a mother from the Whitbread Award-winning writer, Rachel Cusk.

The experience of motherhood is an experience in contradiction. It is commonplace and it is impossible to imagine. It is the process by which an ordinary life is transformed unseen into a story of strange and powerful passions, of love and servitude, of confinement and compassion.

In ‘A Life’s Work’ novelist Rachel Cusk attempts to tell something of this story, an old story set in a new era of sexual equality. When we no longer know what it is to be a woman, what is it to be a mother? When our expectations are so complex, what can we make of the simple lowliness of caring for a small child? Cusk’s story of a year of modern motherhood becomes many stories: a farewell to freedom, sleep and time; a lesson in humility and hard work; a journey to the roots of love; a meditation on madness and mortality; and most of all a sentimental education in babies, books, toddler groups, bad advice, crying, breastfeeding and never being alone.

Reviews of A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother

    • ‘There is a ferociously vigilant intelligence at work in every line of this book, which launches it past the tight orbit of self-pity into something that is actually useful – and occasionally grimly funny, like a Helen Simpson story. Brainy women will continue to have babies, and this is for those for whom motherhood is not all sweetness and light.’ Nicholas Lezard, Guardian
    • ‘As compulsive as a thriller. No mother could fail to be interested and moved.’ Kate Kellaway, Observer
    • ‘An incitement to riot. I laughed out loud, often, in painful recognition.’ Esther Freud
    • ‘Full of enormous insight and sly wit. Cusk has crafted a work of beauty and wisdom. And belly laughs.’ Suzanne Moore, New Statesman
    • ‘A deeply fascinating read, a nakedly honest, witty and eloquent exploration of the world of mother and child, where each of us began.’ Helen Dunmore
    • ‘A breath of fresh air. It took me back to raw emotions since edited from my official history. If I were still in the midst of it I expect I would seize on the book in the same frame of mind as Noah did his ark.’ Maureen Freely, Independent
    • ‘She observes her own sensations and transfers them, still bleeding, to the page where some alchemy of her prose renders this most fascinating and boring of all subjects graceful, eloquent, modest and true.’ Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph
    • ‘“A Life’s Work” is perhaps the most beautifully written and moving book on the subject to be published in recent years.’ Stephanie Merrit, Observer