Stella Benson sets off for Hilltop, a tiny Sussex village housing a family that is somewhat larger than life. Her hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them, as au pair to their irascible son Martin - is undeniably low. What could possibly have driven her to leave her home, job and life in London for such rural ignominy? Why has she severed all contact with her parents? Why is she so reluctant to talk about her past? The Country Life, Rachel Cusk's third novel, is a rich and subtle story about embarrassment, awkwardness and being alone; about families, or the lack of them; and about love in some peculiar guises.