The Bradshaw Variations, By Rachel Cusk

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The Independent Culture

This is a wise, witty, subtle, empathetic gem of a novel. It's a dissection of family life over three generations. Tonie has accepted a promotion to work full-time as a university head of department; her husband, Thomas, has become a house husband, looking after their daughter Alexa; and Thomas's embittered parents snipe at each other and everyone else.

With amazing economy, Cusk shows every possible point of view: we see how wives look to husbands, husbands to wives, brothers to brothers, parents to children, children to parents, teacher to children, friends to friends. Cusk combines thought and feeling effortlessly; her style is elegant, laconic and musical.

Every description is hyper-real, from how it feels to be alone in a suburban house to how it feels to commit adultery. Each chapter is beautifully crafted. You'll sigh, laugh and cringe with recognition. And you'll see every member of your family through newly empathetic eyes.