If we’re talking hotly anticipated new releases this year, Second Place could just about burn your fingers: the new novel from literary darling Rachel Cusk, author of the acclaimed Outline trilogy.
The story of her latest is a tribute to Mabel Dodge Luhan, the woman who hosted D.H. Lawrence at her home in the 1920s. In Cusk’s version, a woman invites a famed visual artist to stay at her remote coastal home.
The narrator, M, seems to fancy herself an Emma Bovary-type, isolated at home with her “not bourgeois” husband, her grown daughter and the daughter’s boyfriend. She hopes the artist, L, will be her salvation and she’s – naturally – disappointed by the strained relationship that develops between them.
This book can be found at the intersection of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and Garner’s autobiographical fiction, but sadly falls far short of them both. There’s nothing fresh or ground-breaking in this testament to privileged second-wave feminism.
Second Place is fine, it’s readable, but it’s also nostalgic to the point of boredom and quite forgettable. Still, I’m grateful to my friends at Faber Books for sending me a copy!