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Publisher's Summary

A woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds. With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, Second Place is deeply affirming of the human soul, while grappling with its darkest demons.

©2021 Rachel Cusk (P)2021 Faber Audio

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Profile Image for David M
  • David M
  • 07-28-21

Analytic and Reflective

This is a re-write of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s 1932 memoir Lorenzo in Taos, about DH Lawrence’s chaotic stay at her artists’ colony in New Mexico, where he ended up threatening to “destroy” his hostess. That was partly written in the form of letters to the poet Robinson Jeffers.

This is paralleled in this book when the un-named "M" invites renowned artist "L" to stay for an indefinite period in her family's second home (or place). The story is told in the form of a long letter to an unexplained "Jeffers". (Perhaps we are expected to have already read the 1932 Luhan book.)

Not much action, but much is made of the rather toxic relationship between the two main characters, and between M and the rest of her family, the meaning of life, time and reality.

The book gives the reader plenty to think about and is not onerously long. Long-listed for the Booker Prize, but I don't think it has what it takes to eventually win.

Kate Fleetwood does a reasonable job of reading for us, until she comes to doing voices. Her voices are so bad it's distracting.

2 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Aquilina Christophorus
  • Aquilina Christophorus
  • 08-26-21

First Rate

Narrator, I found, curiously enough, too slow to keep up with the sublime, barely visible outlines of the seldom seen (and not to be grasped but enveloped) wisdom revealed in dissatisfaction, disempowerment, and self-pity that dissolves the moment into a kitsch lie to oneself (about oneself), that moment of now which Cusk has sink relentlessly into the marsh and its most unlikely hero (Tony), where it is preserved, even cured, homeopathically, so not without becoming more dramatic in the making..

This Narrator worked better at 1.70 x speed to help me grasp the super compact brilliance of a carefully but simply worded, metaphysically sophisticated, hence mindfully meta-pscycho-analytical (h)insight of the meaning of life, killing all meta-external influences (pertaining to fate and the collective consciousness) but in doing so elevating personal responsibility for choices made and especially not made, and celebrating individual potential as endorsed by various good (enriching, stable) or empoverishing (self-aggrandising) relationships rendering personal narrative a new divine status available to all once you learn or care to learn to look. Any (many) fragments worth sticking up on your wall need to be heard at below normal x speed to copy breathlessly.

Recommended that this book be heard twice instantly, and printed copy be purchased to be put in clear sight for all, but especially yourself to see in book case, to remind you of your new-found resolve to stay on the marsh, i.e. the first place you come to when looking for a portrait of yourself.

1 person found this helpful

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  • J E Olearski
  • 09-03-21

Beware the house guest

Cusk gets into her stride in the second half of the book. This is something of the author that we saw and enjoyed in Kudos. The early part of the book is a slow burn and merits closer reading. As we have come to expect, Cusk combines humour and surprise with multiple layers of reflection. I shall rethink who I invite to my home in the future.

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  • Preen Kit
  • 08-26-21

Awful

No real character development - no plot -no point!

There are a string of (at times) beautifully written observations but they could have been attributed to anyone. Whole parts of the book remain unexplained - such as a character described as “the devil” at the start of the book. The framing device is also unexplained - you have to read about the context elsewhere in order to understand it.

I guess I just don’t “get it”.

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  • Kate Smith
  • 08-20-21

Couldn't relate to the characters

Narration was great, particularly the voices. Unfortunately I couldn't identify with any of the characters and had no sympathy for any of them - except perhaps for Jeffers who had to read the letters.

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  • Dickie L
  • 08-09-21

I hope this author writes more books, loved it!

Thoroughly enjoyed this audio book, great narration, interesting story. Felt like I could relate to many of the themes in this book, referring to gender, autonomy, art, age and the landscape. I look forward to the next book this author writes. I have also enjoy ed previous books, this is my favourite one so far. Thanks

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  • Tree
  • 08-02-21

Great narration

Never read rachel cusk before I loved this book
Thé narration is superb the narrator switches between American accent amd British accents so smoothly I loved how she put so much nuance into the narration which brought it alive
The story itself is also extremely addictive and painful but it was so colourful the writing and I could imagine myself there in the scenes it was so vivid highly recommended

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  • Aoife
  • 10-27-21

Ugggh

I know that people are raving about this book but I don’t understand why.
The narrator is whiny and boring.
I kept waiting for some amazing insight into life or relationship or the human condition. If it happened, it passed me by. Don’t bother downloading it.
And who is Jeffers?

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  • uma
  • 08-31-21

Wasn’t into it

Not sure if it’s the times but found it hard to invest in the story. Characters were not very likeable and nothing much seemed to happen. The narration was a laugh - but I don’t think that was intended.

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  • Robert Franken
  • 08-23-21

Rumination to the level of art form.

Cathartic rumination with lovely turns of phrases describing the tricky aspects of existence. Very dramatic Audible reading, a bit OTT for me.