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In the Fold: A Novel Hardcover – October 19, 2005

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Real estate trumps true love in this often hilarious, British black comedy of manners and property values. After the second-story balcony of London lawyer Michael's townhouse crashes at his feet, nearly killing him, he decides to take a holiday to sort out his unhappy life. His wife, Rebecca, miserable with motherhood and marriage, is glad to see him and their introverted three-year-old, Hamish, hie off to the fine old country farm of Michael's university friend Adam Hansbury. But all is not well at Egypt, the oddly named Hansbury estate. Patriarch Paul is hospitalized, but no one visits him; his audacious ex-wife (Adam's mother) remains a frequent "guest" at her former home, where Paul's current wife doles out money, food and complaint to the malcontent step- and grandchildren who come and go. Even Adam is acting strangely. As the discord among the Hansburys escalates to violence and revenge, Michael becomes privy to a secret that unites the family where love and filial piety failed. Whitbread-winner Cusk (The Country Life, etc.) serves up crisp prose full of the unexpected pleasures of observation and metaphor, but this is a book about clever people behaving venally, and as such, the only person to really root for is poor silent Hamish.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Cusk’s fifth novel was long listed for the Booker Prize, an honor that somehow belies its good, but unspectacular, reviews. A work that wordsmiths will love for its dialogue, In the Fold speaks of youth, privilege, and disillusionment—but, unlike Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby or Charles in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Michael understands the deception of appearances. Praised for her limning of psychic and emotional complexity, Cusk establishes convincing stereotypes of wealth, just to tear them down and cast a revelatory light on the treachery of it all. A few critics, however, saw Michael as a "sneering" narrator who infuses the book with meanness (Spectator); others thought too little happened to too many people. In sum, the novel is depressing, to be sure, but it’s a playful, biting comment on human relationships.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (October 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316058270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316058278
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,106,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kate Smart on December 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I very much admire Rachel Cusk - I've read all of her books and quite enjoyed them. But "In the Fold" was so lacking in anything to capture my interest that I couldn't even finish it. It is a story filled with characters who are weird, who say odd things, who seem to appear and vanish like apparitions. People just don't talk like this - the dialogue is extremely tiresome.

There was not a single character I cared about, and everytime I went back to reading, I had no recollection of what transpired previously and had to re-read the previous several pages. This story had no warmth, no heart, and seemed a pointless use of time. Very disappointing, as I expected something truly great.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Michael, a British college student from a conservative background, is invited to attend a birthday party at his friend Adam Hanbury's country estate. The estate is called "Egypt," and to Michael, the place and the people are as exotic as any faraway country. Adam's large, messy family seems wonderfully witty and worldly. The Hanburys' world is idyllic, pastoral and bohemian, and Michael longs to be a part of it, especially when he sees the birthday girl, Caris, a free spirit who poses nude for the family's artist-in-residence: "She looked more extraordinary than any person I had seen before, although it is hard to say exactly why she gave this impression...She looked like a goddess."

After Michael enjoys a too-brief kiss from Caris, the narrative flashes forward more than a decade. Now in his mid-thirties, living in Bath with his wife Rebecca and their three-year-old son Hamish, Michael seems to be enjoying an orthodox existence that is diametrically opposed to the Hanburys' bohemian lifestyle. Although Michael hasn't spoken to Adam in several years, he can't stop thinking about that one magical party. When a balcony on his ramshackle house (donated by his in-laws) collapses, nearly killing him, Michael decides to accept an invitation to visit the Hanburys again to help with the spring lambing while Adam's father is in the hospital.

Arriving at Egypt with his young son in tow, Michael is surprised to discover that all is not as it seemed at this country estate. Adam himself is now married and living nearby; Caris is a voluptuous hippie living on an all-women's commune; Adam's mother and stepmother, who seem on the surface to be friends, secretly loathe and resent each other; and Adam's ailing father is not entirely the benevolent patriarch he seems.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Northrop on December 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The plot of this book concerns disillusion and dissolution: the growing disillusion that the narrator, Michael, feels toward the family of his former college buddy, and the looming possibility of the dissolution of his marriage. Neither prospect is much of a surprise. The family, which he'd once youthfully idealized, consists largely of fractured eccentrics, and his wife has seemingly come unhinged. Michael watches it all as if from a distance, outwardly passive (maddeningly so for his wife) but internally buffeted.

The events are occasionally humorous but pointedly ordinary--farm chores, trips to the store, quick conversations. What's remarkable is the stage Cusk creates for these little dramas. Her imagery is extremely vivid. She pays close attention to light and shadow, for example, and nails her descriptions of both. She focuses on a steady procession of everyday details--jackets, buckets, fishing nets--and uses them to anchor the story in a very recognizable work-a-day world. This flat realism combines with Michael's candid interior monologue to create a mild, is-this-my-life? sort of existential dread that inhabits the quieter moments of the book.

With its heavy shadows, odd details, and sense of a things wobbling slowly out of control, the book resembles a particularly vivid and profound dream. The themes Cusk explores, notably the tension between responsibility to self and responsibility to family, will stay with you long after you put this one in the bookshelf.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Michael's family adheres to rigid social customs so he knows little else. That is until he attends the eighteenth birthday party of Caris Hanbury, the sister of his university roommate Adam. He finds an entirely different world at Egypt Hill.

Years later, Michael resides in Bath with his edgy spouse Rebecca and their troubled withdrawn young son Hamish. They live in a beautiful house given to them by her parents the artistic amoral Alexanders, control freaks who in their eccentric way live an inflexible lifestyle that they expect everyone in their circle, including Michael and Hamash, to follow the lack of conformity that is paradoxically similar yet different from the Hanburys. Worried about his son, Michael takes Hamash with him on a pilgrimage to Egypt Hill where he first learned to break out of the binds of society, but nothing remains the same as he learns you can't go home. He always thought of the place since his first visit but realizes that his dream place is just an illusion.

IN THE FOLD is a deep look at relationshsips between people that will keep the audience pondering after finishing the novel what truly makes a family besides DNA. The story line lacks action as the plot concentrates on varying individuals interacting or not with some turning destructive and others illogical. Not for everyone, Rachel Cusk provides a potent look at the essence of an individual just surviving and mostly living in a society trying to file them in the appropriate drawer; some will rebel while others will quietly acquiesce.

Harriet Klausner
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