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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex, nuanced, and darkly written comedy of manners
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...
Published on November 15, 2005 by Bookreporter

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Good
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...
Published on December 20, 2005 by Kate Smart


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Good, December 20, 2005
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex, nuanced, and darkly written comedy of manners, November 15, 2005
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (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. As Michael grows increasingly disillusioned not only with the Hanburys but also with his own troubled marriage, he must figure out how --- or whether --- to return to his former life.

Set in a manor house in the English countryside, IN THE FOLD has the feeling of early-twentieth century comedies of manners, with some distinctly modern twists. Although the novel does have its moments of levity, its brand of humor is definitely dark, and it can be difficult to find any characters to like (including the narrator himself). Nevertheless, Rachel Cusk's writing is tight and biting, and the novel's characterizations are complex, nuanced, and sometimes a little uncomfortable --- much like family life in the real world.

--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive mix of imagery and philosophy, December 11, 2005
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (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
4.0 out of 5 stars deep look at relationshsips, October 22, 2005
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Beautiful!, November 4, 2007
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This review is from: In the Fold (Hardcover)
This book is so beautiful and fun. Cusk is a master at crystallizing experience, each moment sculpted with a loving, heightened awareness. Her unique use of metaphors, one breathlessly piled on after another, gives the impression that life is so dizzyingly rich it is beyond defining -- we learn about things by knowing what they are not. And yet we end up with a crystal-clear image. What a genius. My favorite writer. Thank you, Rachel Cusk, for loving life so much, and communicating your sense of its preciousness with your gorgeous writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting concept but overwritten, July 26, 2012
By 
Lleu Christopher (Hudson Valley, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (Hardcover)
I often enjoy psychological novels, or ones that are character driven. I also tend to like English novels. While I found the basic premise of In the Fold interesting, I found the execution a bit flawed.

The word that comes to mind for this novel is overwritten. By this I mean there are long, complicated descriptions for almost every single gesture and event that occurs in the novel. And not all that much actually does happen. Although many of the characters are portrayed as offbeat and eccentric, the actual problems and relationships that are described are quite mundane for the most part.

This is the first book by Rachel Cusk that I've read, and her talent shines through even though I wasn't overly enamored of this novel. To me, many of the passages read like writing class exercises, where the descriptions, observations and analogies are almost interchangeable from one character to the next. For example, in a writing workshop, the instructor might tell you to quickly write 100 words that make a certain character sound unique and interesting. This might work in a novel every so often, but here it's page after page.

I'm afraid I have to agree with the reviewer who said he/she didn't really care about any of these characters. Part of this is because many of them are written to be rather wishy-washy (as with the two main male characters, Michael and Adam) or downright unpleasant (e.g. Michael's wife Rebecca). Most of the other characters just seem like a random collection of eccentric mannerisms. The dialog is sometimes interesting, but seldom realistic.

In the Fold is a novel about family relationships, and about how people can form unrealistic and romanticized impressions of others. This is a fascinating and rather subtle theme, but the novel too often lost sight of this and focused instead on less important minutia.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wry and intellectually sharp look at family relationships, June 27, 2009
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (Hardcover)
3.5 stars. This is the first book by Rachel Cusk I have read and I would definitely read another one by her. A short easy read but sharp and full of interesting insights, In the Fold follows a young father Michael as he takes stock of his life by going to visit with an old university friend's family in the country to help with lambing season. Through Michael's eyes we observe the bizarre machinations and idiosyncracies of the Hansbury family who live, love, and battle each other with all the pettiness human beings can muster. The plot never gets too heavy which allows the book to maintain a wispy satirical edge. At the same time, because it never gets heavy, the characters don't ever become fully three-dimensional. Michael himself is never fully realized though you feel alot of sympathy for him and his own less than perfect marriage. A decent read for readers who are interested in the dynamics of ordinary family relationships but probably a little unsatisfying for those who like a meatier read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars C'mon, really?, June 23, 2011
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (Hardcover)
I agree with the review that stated that there was not one character that I could relate to, care about, or even want to wonder about. Usually I can lose myself in a character that is written by an author of the opposite gender, but Michael did not "sound" at all like a male. The only good that came out of this book was the discription of life on a sheep ranch and the struggles of a rancher in modern times.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars folded, January 25, 2009
This review is from: In the Fold: A Novel (Hardcover)
Although I have enjoyed many of Rachel Cusk's books, this one I didn't want to finish. There are other opinions: it was long listed for the 2005 Booker Prize.

In the Fold is narrated by a man and full of dialogue. Perhaps an important step in a writer's development is to try something different. It gives you a reference point: You do that better than this. And then you can go boldly forth.

My favorite thing about the book is the name of the country home where most of the action takes place. It's called Egypt-no explanation given. My favorite line refers to Egypt: "This is our home. It's the place that matters, not the people in it."
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In the Fold
In the Fold by Rachel Cusk (Hardcover - Feb. 2006)
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