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Life Drawing

by

Life Drawing Cover

ISBN13: 9781400068562
ISBN10: 1400068568
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"A middle-aged married couple, their new friend, and her daughter interact, sometimes stormily, in this emotionally complex novel from Black (If I Loved You I Would Tell You This). Beginning with the information that one of these characters is now dead, the book draws the reader in from the first page and builds narrative tension almost ceaselessly to the bitter end. Owen and Augusta, a writer and a painter, respectively, have retreated from their former cosmopolitan life in Philadelphia to a rural idyll in a farmhouse, hoping to devote themselves to their work. Soon, however, a neighbor, Alison Hemmings, moves into a nearby rental. At first, Augusta and Alison get along famously, but then Alison's early-20s daughter, Nora, arrives for a visit and becomes infatuated with Owen. The situation threatens to reopen old wounds — Augusta previously had an affair with the father of one of her art students. Added tension accrues when Alison's violent ex-husband, Paul, appears, creating a situation that eventually boils over. Black's characters are three-dimensional, and her depiction of their relationships, particularly between the two women, is masterly. An astute inquiry into relationships and betrayal, this novel is nerve-wracking yet irresistibly readable. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

“A brutal yet tender look at marriage and creative partnership that hums with thriller-like tension....It might be the nearest thing to a perfect novel that I have ever read.” The Bookseller (UK)

Review:

Life Drawing is a riveting story about the corrosive effects of betrayal, and a beautifully written meditation on the delicate balance of intimacy and isolation within a long marriage.” Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

Review:

Life Drawing is a magnificent literary achievement with a combination of wisdom and velocity that distinguishes it from any other novel I have read, an intimate revelation of love’s unlikely endurance and of art’s role in reviving and redeeming the past, and a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping thriller. I deeply loved Owen and Gus, and I was pulling for them from the first page to the last.” Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

Review:

Life Drawing is a rare and exquisitely wrought portrait of two people equally devoted to their marriage and their art, a couple striving to make sense of a dilemma in which fidelity, honesty, kindness, and betrayal all make claims. The prose is admirably exacting, tender, wise, and elegant — and the story left this reader’s heart aching.” David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Review:

“In her debut novel, Black skillfully conveys the way a long-term relationship can so easily shift between love and affection and a petty tallying of old hurts and disappointments. In addition, she delivers a hair-raising portrait of a poisonous female friendship. Full of emotional turmoil yet subtle in its effect, this elegant novel is sure to draw in both women’s-fiction and literary-fiction fans.” Booklist

Review:

“Gus is known for her precision as an artist, and this quality is evident in her narration; her clear and efficient voice undergirds the novel's lack of melodrama. The focus on friendship and family will appeal to fans of women’s fiction, while the role creativity plays in the lives of the characters will attract readers of literary fiction.” Library Journal

Review:

“Suffused with a remarkably sustained emotional intensity....Every intimate contour of the couple’s relationship is mapped by Black with devastating accuracy. Full of insight into the fragility of marriage, this is a memorable read.” The Sunday Times (London)

Review:

“The simple facts — Gus’s relationship with Owen, her love affair with Bill — are, of course, not simple. [Robin] Black is a writer of great wisdom, and illuminates, without undue emphasis, the flickering complexity of individual histories....The atmosphere of their love, of this house, is one of the most powerful aspects of Black’s unsettling and compelling novel....[Her] taut, elegant prose is both effective and affecting....Life Drawing is at once quiet and memorable. This makes it far from fashionable, and all the more to be applauded. Its author pursues real and vital questions. Astringent and wise, Black is not afraid to discomfit her readers. This novel, like life, is uneasy: what a relief.” Claire Messud, The Guardian (UK)

About the Author

Robin Black is the author of the critically acclaimed short story collection If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, a finalist for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including One Story, Colorado Review, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, O: The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and the anthology The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. I. A recipient of fellowships from the Leeway Foundation and the MacDowell Colony, Black was the 2012 Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bryn Mawr College and has taught most recently in the Brooklyn College MFA Program. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Karen Rush, August 16, 2014 (view all comments by Karen Rush)
Life Drawing is an emotional story about relationships and loyalty. How easy it is to build a life but also to destroy one. The novel is lyrical, realistically expressing human reaction to life, the ability to shut out and detach from upsetting situations. It is full of flawed human behavior, missteps and the need for constant reassurances.

It took me a little while to formulate a review as I spent some time grappling with the ending. Although it was just another example of how an unexpected event can change oneā€™s life, it was deeply affecting.

This is a disturbingly honest portrayal of the contradictions of the human heart.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
The Lost Entwife, July 22, 2014 (view all comments by The Lost Entwife)
I made a mistake in reading LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black. The mistake was not in the reading of the book, but the reading of the book after a piece of fluff that had my mind going 100mph. The first half of LIFE DRAWING had me groaning out of boredom and struggling to calm my racing thoughts, but then.. once I was able to calm down, I began to see just how beautiful the scenery was.

Here's the thing about LIFE DRAWING. It's actually a word-painting of life and the struggles that come, inherent, with any close relationships. Who do you trust outside of your partner? What do you trust your partner with? Can your partner handle if it you decide to go ahead and spill? If not, what do you do from there? These are just a few of the questions being addressed in Black's story about a husband and wife and their neighbor next door.

August, or Gus, is an artist in her 40's and she and her husband, Owen (a writer), came into some money that, by their standards, is a fortune. This money enabled them to move away from the city and all of the issues that plagued them there and try to start over in a quaint home that has excellent light for Gus and a perfect barn for Owen to write in. Their life is not idyllic, but it's comfortable for them.

Then everything is disrupted when a woman moves in next door. The woman, Alison, is also a painter, and with that bit in common with Gus, a friendship is formed. Gus, who has never had a close friendship with a woman, is left to navigate some tricky waters and trouble starts to brew.

August also comes with her own special set of baggage. I thought I knew where the story was going to take me, but to be honest, I should have known better. The weaving of the stories becomes so complex that LIFE DRAWING really becomes quite the masterpiece by the end. Black is extremely patient in her storytelling and paints a very intricate, very detailed picture of the lives of Owen and Gus. The result was surprising and had me completely floored. And here I thought the book was going to be boring.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Cynthia Newberr, July 17, 2014 (view all comments by Cynthia Newberr)
If you're looking for a good book--a sure thing, a book you can sink down into and a world you can get lost in--this is it. Before the end of the first paragraph, you will be hooked, caught up in the marriage between a painter and a writer. Black writes with lots of interiority, and most importantly, lots of honesty. The characters are as flawed as we all are, and there are no easy answers anywhere.

Here's the opening paragraph, which paints a picture that will stick with you, not only the length of the book, but long afterwards:

"In the days leading up to my husband Owen's death, he visited Alison's house every afternoon. I would watch him trudge over the small, snowy hill between our two properties, half the time away from me, half the time toward me. And I would wonder what he thought about as he went. Wonder too if Alison watched him from a window of her own, and whether the expression she saw on his face as he approached was very different from the one I saw as he came home."

In addition to the main storyline of the relationship between the narrator Gus and her husband Owen, I loved the painting project Gus undertakes. While renovating a bathroom, she discovers old WWI newspapers, which spark a desire to paint these lost boys, and this project is as captivating as the novel is, with the dead boys moving through the rooms as though they had all the time in the world, an eerie echo of Owen's movements, and for that matter, all our movements.

Often in novels about a marriage, there's nothing driving the novel forward. Not so here, where, with the retrospective point of view, we know from the first paragraph that Owen dies. In addition, the writing itself pushes the reader from page to page.

I may have to read Life Drawing again, right now, right this minute.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400068562
Author:
Black, Robin
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Psychological
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
20140731
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
9.59 x 6.57 x 0.97 in 1.06 lb

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Life Drawing New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 256 pages Random House - English 9781400068562 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A middle-aged married couple, their new friend, and her daughter interact, sometimes stormily, in this emotionally complex novel from Black (If I Loved You I Would Tell You This). Beginning with the information that one of these characters is now dead, the book draws the reader in from the first page and builds narrative tension almost ceaselessly to the bitter end. Owen and Augusta, a writer and a painter, respectively, have retreated from their former cosmopolitan life in Philadelphia to a rural idyll in a farmhouse, hoping to devote themselves to their work. Soon, however, a neighbor, Alison Hemmings, moves into a nearby rental. At first, Augusta and Alison get along famously, but then Alison's early-20s daughter, Nora, arrives for a visit and becomes infatuated with Owen. The situation threatens to reopen old wounds — Augusta previously had an affair with the father of one of her art students. Added tension accrues when Alison's violent ex-husband, Paul, appears, creating a situation that eventually boils over. Black's characters are three-dimensional, and her depiction of their relationships, particularly between the two women, is masterly. An astute inquiry into relationships and betrayal, this novel is nerve-wracking yet irresistibly readable. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , “A brutal yet tender look at marriage and creative partnership that hums with thriller-like tension....It might be the nearest thing to a perfect novel that I have ever read.”
"Review" by , Life Drawing is a riveting story about the corrosive effects of betrayal, and a beautifully written meditation on the delicate balance of intimacy and isolation within a long marriage.”
"Review" by , Life Drawing is a magnificent literary achievement with a combination of wisdom and velocity that distinguishes it from any other novel I have read, an intimate revelation of love’s unlikely endurance and of art’s role in reviving and redeeming the past, and a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping thriller. I deeply loved Owen and Gus, and I was pulling for them from the first page to the last.”
"Review" by , Life Drawing is a rare and exquisitely wrought portrait of two people equally devoted to their marriage and their art, a couple striving to make sense of a dilemma in which fidelity, honesty, kindness, and betrayal all make claims. The prose is admirably exacting, tender, wise, and elegant — and the story left this reader’s heart aching.”
"Review" by , “In her debut novel, Black skillfully conveys the way a long-term relationship can so easily shift between love and affection and a petty tallying of old hurts and disappointments. In addition, she delivers a hair-raising portrait of a poisonous female friendship. Full of emotional turmoil yet subtle in its effect, this elegant novel is sure to draw in both women’s-fiction and literary-fiction fans.”
"Review" by , “Gus is known for her precision as an artist, and this quality is evident in her narration; her clear and efficient voice undergirds the novel's lack of melodrama. The focus on friendship and family will appeal to fans of women’s fiction, while the role creativity plays in the lives of the characters will attract readers of literary fiction.”
"Review" by , “Suffused with a remarkably sustained emotional intensity....Every intimate contour of the couple’s relationship is mapped by Black with devastating accuracy. Full of insight into the fragility of marriage, this is a memorable read.”
"Review" by , “The simple facts — Gus’s relationship with Owen, her love affair with Bill — are, of course, not simple. [Robin] Black is a writer of great wisdom, and illuminates, without undue emphasis, the flickering complexity of individual histories....The atmosphere of their love, of this house, is one of the most powerful aspects of Black’s unsettling and compelling novel....[Her] taut, elegant prose is both effective and affecting....Life Drawing is at once quiet and memorable. This makes it far from fashionable, and all the more to be applauded. Its author pursues real and vital questions. Astringent and wise, Black is not afraid to discomfit her readers. This novel, like life, is uneasy: what a relief.”
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