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Second Place by Rachel Cusk • #105

It’s our latest Book Club episode, and we’re discussing Rachel Cusk’s latest novel, Second Place.

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.

The book was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize, but didn’t make the cut for the shortlist, but are they missing a future classic? Sally Rooney has called it ‘masterful’, saying it ‘achieves a kind of formal perfection’ while the Observer newspaper lauded it as ‘A landmark in twenty-first-century English literature.’ But what did Laura’s book club make of it? And who would we rather have to dinner, Rachel Cusk or Deborah Levy? Listen in to find out, as we’re joined by journalist and regular special guest Phil Chaffee to discuss it.

Beyond Second Place

Book recommendations

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

The Outline trilogy, by Rachel Cusk, read on audio by Kristen Scott Thomas

Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe

The audiobook of Second Place by Rachel Cusk is published by Faber & Faber and narrated by Kate Fleetwood. It’s available for download now.


You might be interested to read more about Cusk’s inspiration for Second Place, the novel Lorenzo in Taos by Mabel Dodge Luhan

And there’s a helpful New Yorker article for more on Luhan here.

Watch or listen to the Rachel Cusk interview Phil mentions in the show, recorded at the Edinburgh Literary Festival

Don’t miss this perfect short video of Cusk discussing writing that encapsulates everything about her that is so exceptional.

Don’t miss

If you enjoyed this episode try episode #61 on Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Over to you

Have you read Second Place? Are you a Rachel Cusk fan? Comment below and let us know, we love to hear from you.


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