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Publisher's Summary

A luminous, powerful novel that establishes Rachel Cusk as one of the finest writers in the English language

A man and a woman are seated next to each other on a plane. They get to talking - about their destination, their careers, their families. Grievances are aired, family tragedies discussed, marriages and divorces analyzed. An intimacy is established as two strangers contrast their own fictions about their lives.

Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and stark, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner and discourse. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.

Outline takes a hard look at the things that are hardest to speak about. It brilliantly captures conversations, investigates people's motivations for storytelling, and questions their ability to ever do so honestly or unselfishly. In doing so it bares the deepest impulses behind the craft of fiction writing. This is Rachel Cusk's finest work yet and one of the most startling, brilliant, original novels of recent years.

©2015 Rachel Cusk (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about Outline

Average Customer Ratings
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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Deserves multiple listens or reads

This beautiful book is so substantive it demands more than one read or listen as well as annotations, copious underlining and personal connections written into one’s notes. Not thought provoking- Mind blowing. For those who complain plot is lacking, this novel should be approached as a collection of short stories rather than one cohesive narrative. As such, it is a work of genius.

8 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Intelligent and Odd

Because I am not a big fan of heavily plotted books, I looked forward to reading this essentially (and intentionally) plotless novel. My reaction to it went from admiration and astonishment to impatience, annoyance, and boredom. It reminded me a little of the film My Dinner With Andre in that everything is second and third hand. Characters we don't really care about tell stories about characters we never meet to a narrator who is more guide than developed person. At one point I drifted off for five minutes. I started to go back to replay and thought, "Why bother? The chapter will end and I'll never meet this character again."

The writing is spectacularly polished and elegant and precise, without being remotely precious. The insights into love and relationships and all manner of behavior are stunning and gorgeously phrased. But ultimately, I wearied of the stories within stories and the passing parade of talkative characters.

Cusk is obviously masterful and brilliant. She knows what she's doing, I just ended up not being interested in it. This might be better on the page, but I don't feel like investing the time.The authority of her prose makes me want to read another, more traditional, of her novels.

Kate Reading is a pro (her name alone!) and she handles the difficult material well. The book is set in Greece and she manages a range of accents without going overboard.

I wish I could give this 2.5 as an overall experience. I did, after all, finish it.

14 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Disconnected and disappointing

I am baffled why this was nominated for any kind of award, we 'read' it for book group and were in 100% agreement that it was just tedious. The weird first person/third person narrative style created distance and disconnection and the stories went nowhere and seemed pointless. Within one of the stories a 'writer' made a scathing comment about other writers needing to write about extremes to please readers, which might suggest the author has a principled belief that 'good writing' should focus on the everyday and not attempt to engage the reader. Well she succeeded for me. Oh and this goes for both the first two books in the series - won't bother with the third.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Just an outline

While I appreciated some of the ideas in the book, there was really nothing for me to sink my teeth into, nothing that made me want to keep listening outside of my belief in finishing books unless they are truly horrible.

I have to say that I also found the narration quite poor. She had such a dreary sound to her voice which she imparted to all the characters, making them seem quite whiny or boring, sucking any remaining life out of an already gloomy book

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Odd little book

Where does Outline rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the middle, yet I'm still giving it a higher rating than that. I guess that's why I'm calling it odd.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

I didn't expect a resolved ending and didn't get one.

What about Kate Reading’s performance did you like?

Beautiful, elegant diction, she was a pleasure to listen to.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, but yet it was compelling.

Any additional comments?

This is a book of conversations, not action. At times it seemed blah blah blah, but I never stopped listening ... probably because it was beautifully written & narrated and intensely interesting sometimes, but not all the time. It also had moments of truth & clarity for me.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

This book is mainly monologues by self-absorbed women afflicted by unsatisfactory men. I found it insubstantial and irritating. Ms Cusk's reputation is much more substantial than this work would support, so I regret that this has been my first acquaintance with her writing. I fear that I will not approach her again.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Struggled w narrator's voice & inflections

I struggled with the narrator's voice & inflections such that I couldn't relax and "get into the book". Might be worth reading rather than listening.

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This is extraordinary

It’s rare that a book can cause me to feel connected to a hilarious and mystical wider contemporary world, This one does. The writing could not be more compressed and satisfying, a rare feat.. Somehow each sentence of this book is necessary, and also as much fun as possible — all at once.

I keep gifting this one. Everyone needs to have the joy in these pages/words read aloud. I have listened to the audiobook at least twice. I want to get in this world ever so often, we are all better people there.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Traveling Writers amid Wealth and Culture

A lot of sad marriages among people who are very different from me, wealthy business people, intellectuals. Cusk is very intelligent and the book left me feeling that it was worth a reread some day.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Grew on me

I find myself reflecting on this book over time. While reading it, I was sometimes annoyed and dropped my attention for another book, only to pick it up and continue. I end up deciding it is a book that is more like brussel sprouts with bits of bacon than a full meal with coffee and dessert, but I am quite glad I read it and would recommend it to myself if I hadn't.

I also would insist that friends read to the end...and if they were determined to abandon it that they read sections here and there forward to get to the end, rather than drop it altogether.

1 person found this helpful