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.
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
“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)
“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)
“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)