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January 31 , 2008

The Bradshaw Variations

A Novel


Since quitting work to look after his eight-year-old daughter, Alexa, Thomas Bradshaw has found solace and grace in his daily piano study. His pursuit of a more artistic way of life shocks and irritates his parents and in-laws. Why has he swapped roles with Tonie Swann, his intense, intellectual wife, who has accepted a demanding full-time job? How can this be good for Alexa?

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Casting off a northern winter and an orderly life, a family decides to sell everything and go to Italy to search for art and its meanings, for freedom from routine, for a different path into the future. The award-winning writer Rachel Cusk describes a three-month journey around the Italy of Raphael and rented villas, of the Piero della Francesca…

Tonie is increasingly seduced away from domestic life by the harder, headier world of work, where long-forgotten memories of ambition are awakened. She soon finds herself outside their tight family circle, alive to previously unimaginable possibilities. Over the course of a year full of crisis and revelation, we follow the fortunes of Tonie, Thomas, and his brothers and their families: Howard, the successful, indulgent brother, and his gregarious wife, Claudia; and Leo, lacking in confidence and propped up by Susie, his sharp-tongued, heavy-drinking wife. At the head of the family, the aging Bradshaw parents descend on their children to question and undermine them.

The Bradshaw Variations reveals how our choices, our loves, and the family life we build will always be an echo—a variation—of a theme played out in our own childhood. This masterful and often shockingly funny novel, Rachel Cusk's seventh, shows a prizewinning writer at the height of her powers.

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