Second Place by Rachel Cusk
A haunting fable of art, family, and fate from the author of the Outline trilogy.
A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigma—and disrupts the calm of her secluded household.
Second Place, Rachel Cusk’s electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift—and to destroy.
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
Publisher: Faber & Faber