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Second Place: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021 by [Rachel Cusk]
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Second Place: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021 Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 257 ratings

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About the Author

Rachel Cusk is the author of the trilogy Outline, Transit, Kudos; the essay collection Coventry; the memoirs A Life's Work, The Last Supper and Aftermath; and several other novels: Saving Agnes (winner of the Whitbread Award), The Temporary, The Country Life (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award), The Lucky Ones, In the Fold, Arlington Park and The Bradshaw Variations. She was chosen as one of Granta's 2003 Best Young British Novelists. She has been shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize three times, most recently for Kudos. --This text refers to the paperback edition.


Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by: Buzzfeed, Vogue, O, Elle, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, BookPage, The Millions, Lit Hub, The Seattle Times, Esquire, New Statesman, Paperback Paris, The Week, Town and Country

“Cusk grapples with [D.H. Lawrence’s] spirit in Second Place, her first novel since the Outline Trilogy, which is one of the great fictional achievements of the new millennium. Where those crystalline novels were largely plotless and had the chilly burn of dry ice, this fascinating book finds her moving in a messier new direction. . . [Cusk] writes with a knife-thrower’s precision and showmanship."
- John Powers, NPR FRESH AIR

“Rachel Cusk, the author of the Outline series, is one of the most precise analysts of human behavior. In this quiet but thrilling novel, based on a real-life vignette, she focuses on a middle-aged woman―a writer, a mother, a spouse―who is desperate to be seen by a male artist whom she invites to stay as a summer houseguest. There is mayhem; surprising sweetness and brilliant observations tumble from every page.”
―Jenny Singer, Glamour

“Whatever it is we want from [Rachel Cusk], Second Place delivers in spades. And with the dynamism of a truly great writer, the novel seems written just for the spring of 2021 but was actually inspired by the memoir of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a patron who played host to D.H. Lawrence in Taos, New Mexico, in 1932 . . . Cusk gives us three ‘stages of women,’ leaving hints of female truths I’ll carry for the rest of my life, and no small amount of lush, threatening scenery.”
―Julia Berick, The Paris Review

“Her genius is that in deliberately blurring a boundary of her own – that between a writer and her subject, between the expectation of autobiography so often attached to writing by women, and the carapace of pure invention so often unthinkably afforded to men – she tricks us into believing that her preoccupations and failings, her privileges and apparent assumptions, are not our own. By the time we realize what has happened, it is too late: our own surface has been disturbed, our own complacent compartment dismantled. It is a shock, but as the narrator of Second Place reminds us, 'shock is sometimes necessary, for without it we would drift into entropy.'"
―Sam Byers, The Guardian

Second Place is a comedy of misrecognition. Six characters wind up together in a pair of houses located on a marsh, and the question of the novel is whether they can see each other for who they really are . . . Very potent comedy . . . One thing Cusk has done in Second Place is to restore some mystery to the idea of artistic genius in an era when we prefer to speak of ‘craft’ and ‘process’.”
―Christian Lorentzen, The Times Literary Supplement

“The Outline trilogy is a hard act to follow, but Second Place is an excellent next step . . . Essentially, it's a domestic novel combined with a novel of ideas in which Cusk continues her cerebral exploration of issues of freedom, how art can both save and destroy us, the rub between self-sacrifice and self-definition in motherhood, and the possibilities of domestic happiness . . . Beautiful prose.”
―Heller McAlpin, NPR

Second Place shows the freedoms of art to be ambiguous and often entirely arbitrary. They are the results not of visionary inspiration but of practice, patience and the dullness of repetition. ‘The rigorously trained fingers of the concert pianist,’ the narrator says in a moment of perceptiveness, ‘are freer than the enslaved heart of the music-lover can ever be.’”
―Jon Day, Financial Times

"The novel’s electric charge comes from the asymmetric relationship between L and M. L’s artistic genius is connected, like Satan’s, to his claims of absolute freedom . . . A sharp feeling of estrangement is crucial to Ms. Cusk’s fictions. The writing, so heightened and epigrammatic, seems almost to mock the homespun fashions of traditional realist prose."
―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"In this book more than ever, Cusk is astringent, unsugared. Straight vinegar. It’s delicious and good for the gut . . . Cusk’s open experimentation is refreshing, as is her belief that a writer must keep moving forward, forging a rough chain."
―Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times

"The book is an atmospheric, a mood piece, a drug . . . Instead of passivity, we get velocity; M flings herself desperately into her own drama . . . [Cusk's] sentences grow hypnotic. M is preoccupied by L, thinking incessantly about the painter who shies away from her admiration."
―Helen Shaw, New York

“A friend once described a Cusk novel―2014’s Outline―as a glass of Sancerre: very dry, very cold, totally perfect. To (perilously) extend this metaphor let’s call Cusk’s new novel Second Place a weird wonderful glass of orange wine, unfiltered, even funky . . . Second Place is about how to survive the perils of middle age, how to find both security and freedom in equal measure, and how human longing shades, all too easily, into self-destruction.”
Vogue (Most Anticipated)

“Cusk, a virtuoso of our interior lives and the author of the renowned Outline Trilogy, here spins a captivating, compulsively readable tale―part confession, part allegory―that unflinchingly peers into the crevices of relationships.”
O, the Oprah Magazine (Most Anticipated)

“You know when you’re reading a page of Rachel Cusk’s fiction. Her narrators tug insistently if coolly at the central knots of being. They analyze every emotion as if it were freshly invented. Nothing is extraneous."
―Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“The plot is simple, but the way it unfolds is as nuanced as ever, narrated in M’s second person to someone offstage. As with Cusk’s Outline trilogy, it takes seriously the complex emotional geometries between ordinary people. Second Place is a deeply philosophical book about what happens when you confuse art with life.”
Vulture (Most Anticipated)

“The visionary writer of the Outline trilogy returns with a new novel about M, a middle-aged writer who invites a famed painter to the remote home she shares with her second husband, hoping that he might capture the marshy landscape on his canvas . . . Written in Cusk’s unmistakable style, longtime fans will rejoice, while first-timers will surely become Cusk converts.”
Esquire (Best Books of Spring)

"Cusk’s intelligent, sparkling return (after Kudos) centers on a woman in crisis . . . There is the erudition of the author’s Outline trilogy here, but with a tightly contained dramatic narrative. It’s a novel that feels timeless, while dealing with ferocious modern questions."
Publishers' Weekly (starred review)

"Highly praised for her recent, decidedly nonlinear Outline Trilogy, Cusk here rediscovers the joys of plot . . . Brilliant prose and piercing insights convey a dark but compelling view of human nature."
Kirkus (starred review)

"Once again, Cusk (the “Outline” trilogy) delivers a novel so thorny with ideas that every sentence merits a careful reading, yet crafted in language as ringingly clear as fine crystal . . . A gorgeously sculpted story of living and learning; for all readers."
Library Journal (starred review)

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08Q33BQW5
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Faber & Faber (4 May 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1105 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 155 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.0 out of 5 stars 257 ratings

Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5
257 global ratings

Top reviews from India

Reviewed in India on 31 July 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars On Being and Becoming
By Singh, R. on 31 July 2021
All I can say is, I swam through this book, if I were to it sum up the book in one sentence. I have been eyeing Cusk's books for a long time but never got to reading it for some reason or the other. Seeing the Booker 2021 long-list, I got hold of it without another moment's wait and read it in just two days. There is a woman, whose name or details we do not know, we do not know anything about her remotely until we are far into the novella. It seems she has a lot to say and she is, indeed, speaking unhesitatingly to some one called Jeffers (who we do not know at all). She is telling Jeffers about her moment of epiphany in an art gallery of Paris when she was out on a walk. She tells him about her obsession with the piece of art and the artist. When she returns to her home back in the middle of nowhere, in a marshland, she builds out a place with her husband and invites the artist. From there, she begins unravelling. She inches closer to the artist, his art and begs to find herself, her becoming in it. But there are a lot of things that deter her, it begins from her gendered body, her restricted roles, her oppressive experience of womanhood and motherhood and the artist himself who has something else in mind, all together. I loved the book. Her writing drew me into the book effortlessly. I couldn't stop marvelling at the preciseness and honesty of her prose. The author blurred the line between what's fiction and what's spiral of thoughts rising and descending into one point, that is of art and reality. I don't think this book would be everyone's cup of tea because the author plays with ambiguity of transcendence and immanence throughout the text making the flow of reading a fiction a little difficult. Personally, I wouldn't have appreciated the book as much, had I read it even a year before. However, I suppose the kind of academic literature I have been exposed to, lately, made my time reading this book much more meaningful and understandable than what it would have been otherwise. In the hands of right readers, this book definitely stands as a strong contender for Booker, or else, a completely unnecessary megalomania.
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Reviewed in India on 27 August 2021
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4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, enthralling and engaging!
By Amazon Customer on 27 August 2021
Rachel Cusk followed her excellent trilogy with an epic novel. Her characters continue to explore the self, possibilities, fragilities of the human mind and its connections, the strengths and the weaknesses of relationships. A raw, new, honest take on parental love as well, the book goes over and above in giving us beautiful prose without compromising or making anything pointlessly fancy. My favourite bits were perhaps how through the eyes of a woman she explains the vain fancy for the ‘ungrateful artist in residence’ who seems to be the typical philanderer man that women are taught to stay away from. A wonderful, absorbing read! I do wish it were a longer journey.
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Reviewed in India on 1 December 2021
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Top reviews from other countries

The Reading Room
4.0 out of 5 stars A life defined by others
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 31 July 2021
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9 people found this helpful
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K. Hicks
1.0 out of 5 stars Rambling nonsense
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 August 2021
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6 people found this helpful
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Patricia Huth Ellis
1.0 out of 5 stars An intense stream of consciousness
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 July 2021
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5 people found this helpful
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2.0 out of 5 stars art and disappointment
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 August 2021
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Euphemia Black
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story spoiled by too much thinking!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 September 2021
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About the author

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Rachel Cusk is the author of nine novels, three non-fiction works, a play, and numerous shorter essays and memoirs. Her first novel, Saving Agnes, was published in 1993. Her most recent novel, Kudos, the final part of the Outline trilogy, will be published in the US and the UK in May 2018.

Saving Agnes won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Country Life won the Somerset Maugham Award and subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Whitbread Prize, Goldsmiths Prize, Bailey’s Prize, and the Giller Prize and Governor General’s Award in Canada. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. Her version of Euripides’ Medea was directed by Rupert Goold and was shortlisted for the Susan Blackburn Smith Award.

Rachel was born in Canada in 1967 and spent her early childhood in Los Angeles before moving to the UK in 1974. She studied English at Oxford and published her first novel Saving Agnes when she was twenty six, and its themes of femininity and social satire remained central to her work over the next decade. In responding to the formal problems of the novel representing female experience she began to work additionally in non-fiction. Her autobiographical accounts of motherhood and divorce (A Life’s Work and Aftermath) were groundbreaking and controversial.

Most recently, after a long period of consideration, she attempted to evolve a new form, one that could represent personal experience while avoiding the politics of subjectivity and literalism and remaining free from narrative convention. That project became a trilogy (Outline, Transit and Kudos). Outline was one of The New York Times’ top 5 novels in 2015. Judith Thurman’s 2017 profile of Rachel in The New Yorker comments “Many experimental writers have rejected the mechanics of storytelling, but Cusk has found a way to do so without sacrificing its tension. Where the action meanders, language takes up the slack. Her sentences hum with intelligence, like a neural pathway.”