p41 "But I am not merely the chauffeur of this precious cargo; I am also its box, its container, and while my fastnesses are regulated and supervised, the manner in which I will be broken open on arrival at our destination remains shrouded in mystery.
p52 " Edith Wharton's 1905 novel 'The House of Mirth' asks the question of what a woman is if she is not a wife, a mother, a daughter. Wharton herself was none of these things. She married, a marriage of class and convenience, but lived separately, estranged, and finally on a different continent from her husband. Her parents were dead. She had no children. Her right to exist derived from her wealth, inherited and then earned by her writing. Latterly she had a large collection of lapdogs, to whom she was obsessively devoted, and she found philanthropy: living in France during the First World War, she set up refuges and schools for orphaned children."
Cusk discusses and quotes from the book - contrasting Lily Bart (the heroine) to Edith Wharton herself.
p55 "The baby is the symbol not just of Lily's exclusion from the human life-cycle, nor of the vulnerability, the helplessness that marks her life and her life's end: it is also the vision of her squandered femininity, a ghostly image of mother and child, their bodies entwined, rising from the brittle, broken shell of her useless beauty."
p90 "If parental love is the blueprint for all loves, it is also a reenactment, a revision, an investigation of self-love. When I care for my daughter I revisit my own vulnerability, my primordial helplessness. I witness that which I cannot personally remember, my early existence in this white state, this world of milk and shadows and nothingness. My survival testifies to the fact that I, too, was cared for, and yet again and again I experience images of abandonment, of lack of love, unable to stop myself from pursuing ghoulish narratives of what would happen if I left her, if I went out for the day, if I failed to pick her up when she cried or refused to feed her. Having lived for so long high up in the bickering romantic quarters of love, it is as if I were suddenly cast down to its basement, its foundations. Love is more respectable, more practical, more hardworking that I had ever suspected, but it lies close to the the power to destroy. I have never before remotely felt myself to possess that power, and I am as haunted by it as it it were a gun in a nearby drawer. My numberless ministrations, the ceaseless nurture that continues regardless of hour or modd or ability, are conducted in the very shadow of their neglect."
p94 "Motherhood for Emma Bovary [Madame Bovary - Flaubert] is an alias, an identity she occasionally assumes in her career as an adulterer."