Life Drawing by Robin Black
Published in 2015 by Picador
My copy: Library
Augusta and Owen have taken the leap. Leaving the city and its troubling memories behind, they have moved to the country for a solitary life where they can devote their days to each other and their art, where Gus can paint and Owen can write.
But the facts of a past betrayal prove harder to escape than urban life. Ancient jealousies and resentments haunt their marriage and their rural paradise.
When Alison Hemmings moves into the empty house next door, Gus is drawn out of isolation, despite her own qualms and Owen’s suspicions. As the new relationship deepens, the lives of the two households grow more and more tightly intertwined. It will take only one new arrival to intensify emotions to breaking point.
A pretty good way to suck a reader straight into a book is to kick it off with one of the main characters dying. That is exactly what Black does in the very first line of this novel, and then we step back in time to find out what has led to this tragedy.
Gus and Owen are in their forties, and their relationship is deeply troubled for many reasons – not least the lingering resentment over an affair one of them had a few years before. There are secrets between the couple, and also their isolation – which they profess to enjoy – prevents them living a full life. While Owen struggles with writer’s block, Gus embarks on a new project, which causes even more resentment between them.
Into this tension steps new neighbour Alison, who the couple befriend despite themselves. The relationship that develops between Alison and Gus is actually very touching, and Gus realises how much she has missed female company. However their close friendship is the eventual undoing of all the characters in the book.
There is much I enjoyed about this novel – it is really well written, the dialogue between the characters is authentic, and the unravelling of the characters’ lives works well. However it is a slow novel, and is very introspective at times – the characters are self-absorbed and it is hard at times to like Gus or Owen. Although it is a short novel, at times it did ramble a bit and I was desperate for it to get back on track.
But the main thread of the story ultimately worked well, and keeps you guessing – and it was very interesting how very simple incidents could destroy people’s lives.
Overall this is an enjoyable and well written novel, but is definitely not one for people who like lots of twists and an action-packed read! But if you like interesting characters and an insight into other people’s lives, then I would recommend this.
My rating: 7 out of 10