In Life Drawing, her gorgeously written first novel, Robin Black unfolds a fierce, honest, and moving portrait of a woman, and of a couple’s life - the betrayals and intimacies, the needs and regrets, the secrets that sustain love and the ones that threaten to destroy it.
Augusta and Owen have moved to the country, and live a quiet, and rather solitary life, Gus as a painter, Owen as a writer. They have left behind the city, and its associations to a troubled past, devoting their days to each other and their art. But beneath the surface of this tranquil existence lies the heavy truth of Gus’s past betrayal, an affair that ended, but that quietly haunts Owen, Gus, and their marriage.
When Alison Hemmings, a beautiful British divorcée, moves in next door, Gus, feeling lonely and isolated, finds herself drawn to Alison, and as their relationship deepens, the lives of the three neighbors become more and more tightly intertwined. With the arrival of Alison’s daughter, Nora, the emotions among them grow so intense that even the slightest misstep has the potential to do irrevocable harm to them all.
With lyrical precision and taut, suspenseful storytelling, Black steadily draws us deeper into a world filled with joys and darkness, love and sorrows, a world that becomes as real as our own. Life Drawing is a novel as beautiful and unsparing as the human heart.
©2014 Robin Black (P)2014 Random House Audio
"Fine-tuned and exactly observed... With such well-rounded characters and a highwire level of suspense, the novel builds to a devastating resolution." (The Daily Mail)
"Black's command of the story carries us swiftly through ever more dangerous rapids.... She captures the various pains and pleasures of love, and how betrayal distorts and damages, with superb subtlety." (BBC)
A slow build, the narrative establishing the characters and touching on so many aspects of life - relationships, friendship, truth, betrayal, parenting, art, and loss. The prose is lovely, and Cassandra Campbell, one of my favorite narrators, reads this beautifully. An emotional story and a truely surprise ending (I definitely did not see it coming)
Audiobooks have enriched my reading experience and made my life much more interesting.
Within the first lines of Life Drawing, Robin Black's stunning debut novel, we learn that the narrator's husband, Owen, has died, although we still don't know the details of how this happened.
This is one of those novels that although provides great suspense and engages the reader's curiosity from the beginning, it's not so much about guessing the outcome as much as it is about how the story and its characters develop.
As Gus begins narrating their story, the couple's relationship have apparently survived an extra-marital affair in which she was the guilty party. Right after the affair ended, she decided to take the honest approach and confessed the whole thing to Owen.
Owen is a 51 year-old writer and Gus is a 47 year-old painter, they have accomplished a moderate level of success on their respective careers, good enough to provide a comfortable middle class life style.
Eventually and after receiving an unexpected inheritance, the couple retreats from their cosmopolitan life in the city and decide to buy a secluded 1918 farmhouse in Pennsylvania. On the surface it looks that Gus and Owen have found "safety in their solitude". The seclusion would theoretically serve a dual purpose, help them heal but also provide a idyllic, sheltered place where their creativity can flourish.
But there are certain dynamics that drive a relationship, some of them are openly acknowledged and recognized by the partners some of them are not. And underneath their seemingly perfect life, there are many pending issues that haven't been resolved and threaten their relationship.
Enter Alison Hemmings, a pretty and charming English divorcee who has just moved to the rental house nearby. After initially resisting Alison's intrusion into their very private lives, Gus and Alison become good friends and eventually Gus tells Alison the details of her affair with a married man.
By the time Nora, Alison's 20 year-old daughter comes to visit and develops a mayor infatuation for Owen, you have a strong feeling that something ominous is going to happen and in fact it all pretty much goes down hill from there. Nora's presence threatens to open old wounds between Owen and Gus and it ultimately exposes all the baggage their relationship has been painfully carrying.
Life Drawing is a wonderful character novel that explores the complexities of marriage, the consequences of adultery and betrayal, women's friendships and in general the nuances of human relationships. And yet with all these serious themes it's a truly delightful read.
Casandra Campbell's narration was wonderful. She seamlessly delivers the virtues and flaws of all these characters in a pitch perfect performance.
The narrator's voice was nice, but the story seemed to drone on and on with too much introspection from the main character. If found myself getting sleepy while listening to it in the car. I felt that it was well written; just not my cup of tea.
It's definitely among the top 20 books.
Augusta is definitely my favorite given the layers she has. The complexity of her character really hooked me in.
Cassandra has really captured the voices of the carious characters.
It would be Owen. I'd really like to know what was he thinking when he decided to give his marriage a second chance and a third chance. I want to know if he was really brave or a coward to give Augusta so many chances.
Got me really thinking:
"That's what happens when one of you dies. The clock stops. The story ends. (You) begin to see patterns. Begin to understand. Maybe the patterns are only the ones that you impose. But the thing takes on a different shape. It takes on a shape. Or, as one of my teachers used to say, you cannot see the landscape you’re in."
"There are often two conversations going on in a marriage. The one that you’re having and the one you’re not, sometimes you don't even know when that second, silent one has begun."
if you are looking for action and variety this is not the book for you...i felt that it ended on a very very dark note and i think if i had known i would not have chosen to read it...
Cassandra Campbell’s narration was really well done with different accents and every character had a different voice. Although I disliked the story itself Campbell’s narration was the only thing that kept me listening.
This book was not my cup of tea. All the characters are selfish uppity people, who I would never want to know. These people were so unlikeable the only reason I finished this book was for the narration.
I’m not going to go on and on about how much I disliked this book and was bored to tears most of the time. It was a bit too Franzenish for my tastes. I know I am in the minority here but, ugh.
2 star book
4 star narration
Maybe I shouldn't have ordered this book because I don't care much for domestic dramas but the art aspect appealed to me. The parts of the book about art were in fact very good.
I'm not a reader who necessarily has to like the characters in a book, but these characters were simply annoying. The narrator is extremely egocentric and the other characters are not much better. Also, on approximately every other page someone is apologizing about something.
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