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Life Drawingby Robin Black
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.
“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)
“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
“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!
“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
“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
“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
“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)
“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.
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