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Outline

Written by: Rachel Cusk
Narrated by: Kate Reading
Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
4 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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

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

Gorgeous story. Might not work as an audio book

`This was the first audio book I purchased on audible, and I wish I would have just read it. Rachel Cusk is a brilliant writer, but I had a difficult time focusing on the story that was being told to me. I wanted to go back and read sections over again; I got lost in my thoughts; i got lost in the brilliance of her observations about her characters. I had difficulty doing that with an audiobook. It just wasn't the same. As far as the story goes: There isn't one, not in a traditional sense anyway. I think the book works in the context of modernism and seems like a throwback to James Joyce, or Edith Wharton, or Virginia Woolf. But even those writers wrote stories. Even Joyce wrote stories. There is absolutely no plot here. A woman goes to Greece and meets various people on the way. She speaks with them and draws them out ad nauseam on a piece of paper, with words. It's a remarkable feat. A brilliant novel. But it's also boring. Like, honestly, it's really boring. I love Malcolm Lowry. I love Edith Wharton. I love James Joyce. And I have never been bored by modernist writers; however, every single person she meets is so self-aware, such a bloody genius about their own lives, that I just wanted to meet one dumb person who wasn't the most insightful, self-aware bugger on the planet. Just one dumb idiot who picked his nose and didn't understand a bloody thing that was happening around him. It was great in the beginning, but by the end I just wanted the reader (who has a British accent that added a layer of pretence to everything that was said, which did not help at all) to shut up. This is a five star novel. Rachel Cusk is way way smarter than you or me, but man I hate to say it but I was bored with the characters. They were all so smart. I couldn't relate. Insert self-deprecating, "duh," emoji here. Maybe I missed the point entirely, which is likely. I think I will read Rachel's other books. I don't want to listen to them again.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Couldn’t get past the narrator

Narrators voice was hard to take- the way each sentence was finish was really strange...not at all how normal people speak. I foot irritating .

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • JCH
  • 2018-01-30

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Steve M
  • 2017-02-14

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.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Diane E Bunten
  • 2017-09-28

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 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Laureen Miki
  • 2017-05-11

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 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Diane
  • 2016-08-02

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 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • mica
  • 2015-01-28

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 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • audioknitter
  • 2015-02-15

The Reader

How could the performance have been better?

A different reader would have made all the difference in my enjoyment of this book. Kate Reading's voice was sing-song, staccato and had a generally annoying resonance. I am returning this Audible book after listening to an hour of it (my first return out of many, many Audible books) and will read the hard copy. The story itself seems like it could be very good.

7 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Nancy Morgan
  • 2015-02-12

Wordy and boring

Every character went on and on with their stories and opinions. There never seemed to be a point. I don't even know why it was called Outline. I fell asleep at the end and it is too boring to go back and listen to it.

7 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Philip J. Olsson
  • 2016-01-07

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jill_D
  • 2019-10-23

Brilliantly written...interesting story

This author can paint a picture. Her prose is positively lyrical and she colors in her characters beautifully. If you are looking for a gripping story or a fast-moving plot, Outline is not for you. It's more of a gradual unveiling of its characters in small, surprising ways.