Clytemnestra in Brighton

Joanna Biggs

  • Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation by Rachel Cusk
    Faber, 153 pp, £12.99, March 2012, ISBN 978 0 571 27765 0

On the cover of Aftermath, Rachel Cusk’s divorce memoir, there’s a drawing of a jigsaw. It’s the classic pattern, the one in which all the pieces – reaching out on two sides and sucked in on the others – are the same, and fit together at right angles. The book begins: ‘Recently my husband and I separated, and over the course of a few weeks the life that we’d made broke apart, like a jigsaw dismantled into a heap of broken-edged pieces.’ (The simile will be invoked four more times; her marriage is a completed jigsaw and her divorce the moment when the picture that only ‘seems complete’ is broken up.) The sentence doesn’t work – jigsaw pieces don’t form heaps, their edges aren’t broken, and what are ‘broke’ and ‘broken’ both doing in the same sentence anyway? – but the real problem is that a jigsaw is dismantled only so that it can be put back together again. A jigsaw in bits is a funny metaphor to use for divorce.

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