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Publisher's Summary

2021 Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year
2021 Man Booker Award - Nominee
2021 Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year

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. 

A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

©2021 Rachel Cusk (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

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What listeners say about Second Place

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Description of child sex abuse

This book opens with a disturbing account of child sexual abuse. I stopped listening when the author was going to describe what happened at a slaughterhouse.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Rachel Cusk is so brilliant!

Oh my God. Thank you Audible algorithm for recommending this to me. But then, it should be obvious that I hang on every word she writes.
Before I downloaded I read a couple of reviews that crabbed about the narration. I don’t see what their problem was.
Interestingly the story takes place during the pandemic, but that formed only the most distant backdrop, alluded to by snippets like, "...now that travel had become less of a problem..."
Fans will not be disappointed: there is the obligatory cringy scene where a man, with the greatest awkwardness, tries to force himself on the POV character.
I never tire of Rachel Cusk's startlingly original turns of phrase coupled with her penetrating wisdom and disarming vulnerability. If you are anything like the fanboy I am don't pass this up.

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Reader is a turn-off!

Unfortunately, the reader is a major turn-off. Harsh, curt way of speaking, off-putting. Re-record with a British voice please.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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terrible reader

awful reader: theatrical, just too exagerated. made me hate every single character.

CHANGE THE READER

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Strange Reading from Great Actress

Maybe it was the director's fault? Kate Fleetwood is a great actor ( I gave seen her onstage doing Shakespeare!) but this was jarringly disappointing. Why did she do different voices for the various characters when this was a first-person narrative? And the voice she gave the main character, "L", was so bad it was nearly unlistenable.
There were many bemusing places where the reading of a sentence was way off- pauses in the wrong places, unnatural - why didn't the director get another take?
Oh well.

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Excrutiating performance

I made the mistake of downloading this without listening to a sample as I usually do. Had I done that, I never would have subjected myself to even 30 minutes of this god-awful performance. The reader sounds like she's trying out for a high school play, being "dramatic" and "emphatic." Maybe she was trying to convey something about the character, but I didn't get far enough to judge.

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Kind of liked it?

A bit rambling and boring but the author uses beautiful and precise language which I liked. There is no real plot but I guess that would be a feature and not a bug from this author’s perspective. Nice unromantic view of what might be considered an “impressive” man particularly in contrast to the other characters.

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Great book, acting fail.

This is an awful performance. I have never had such a visceral reaction to a reader. The voices she adopts for the characters are so exaggerated, especially for the men. it's almost funny, but mostly just annoying. Rachel Cusk deserves better!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Beautifully executed. Impressionism in words, philosophy in motion

I enjoyed “Second Place” though the only characters that rang true were M, the writer and L the artist. The others were shallow.

The philosophizing was annoying at times, insightful occasionally. I recommend it if only for the exquisite writing. Her picture of paras is Impressionism in English words,

It slows down a bit about 3/4 through but is worth preserving to the end. Don’t think it’ll win the Booker, but for a novel written in these troubled times of Brexit, climate crisis and Covid, it hits the mark though these tragedies are not directly alluded to..

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First ten minutes are the best of the whole book

Not sure why I stayed with it to the end. A few provocative sentences (eg Fear is a habit and like all habits it kills what is essential in us.) and the rest was tedious, disconnected, characters unformed and two dimensional, and plot was idiotic. But let me tell you how I really feel…..ha.