Life Drawing by Robin Black

lifedI received this book from Panmacmillan SA for review consideration.

“Owen  was Owen. Owen was me. I was Owen. Anger and all. Betrayals and all. Owen would walk into a room and I might well want to kill him – so to speak- but at the same time, for much of my life, I couldn’t really have told you where I left off and he began. And then he died. Leaving me standing at a window, staring into a landscape as though, well, as though he might just reappear one day. Of course” – page 5

Those are the words of Augusta. The story starts off with where he died and Augusta reflects on their relationship, one that consisted of non-traditional ideas about marriage. By the sound of it, it seems they have had the perfect relationship, “I couldn’t really have told you where I left off and he began”, but it wasn’t a perfect relationship and that is what this novel is mostly about.  One never knows what goes on inside a relationship, even though we can see and think that a couple is happy, as Owen’s mother noticed and mentioned to Augusta about them being so happy even after all these years. They weren’t…

Augusta is a painter and Owen a novelist. After Augusta confessed to Owen about her extramarital affair with the father of one of her art students, Liane, they moved from Philadelphia to a farmhouse.  This is where they would live, in solidarity, detached from society to work on and rebuild their marriage. There are various factors that influence their relationship: Augusta’s affair, her guilt over having hurt her husband, his unability to have children and his writer’s block – which could only be as a result of Augusta’s infidelity.

They lived there for two years, until Alison, a single divorced mother, moves in next door. At first, Augusta and Owen seems to be irritated with having her around, but soon Augusta finds herself opening up to Alison – about her infidelity, about her heartache hearing that the man she had an affair with was to be married again and her father’s decline suffering from Alzheimer’s. Alison had her own issues that she confided to Augusta and the two  ladies stroke up friendship.  Something that seem to be new to Augusta.  Then they met Alison’s daughter, Nora, who is an aspiring writer and upon arrival quickly became enamored with Owen. And suddenly Owen’s writer block is no more…

This story, overall, is domestic fiction and yet it covers so many topics such as love, betrayal, illness, family, religion, death, friendship and forgiveness and somehow made it all work. In one novel. It discusses life and the consequences of our actions, actions that can break a marriage or a friendship.  By no means is this a quick read, despite it’s 240 pages. It’s a story you can live in and emphasize with the characters. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking story.  If you enjoy relationship studies such as this in a novel, I’m quite sure you will enjoy it. If you’re looking for a quick read, this might not be for you.

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  • I loved this book for the reasons you’ve outlined in your review. It has everything you might want in domestic fiction, as well as a lot of tension, since we know something will eventually happen to explain the death of Owen. The best part for me, though, was the exploration of a long, roller-coaster of a marriage.

    • I think that was the best part of the novel, the focus on relationships. Of course, I also read so I can find out how Owen died, but somewhere in the novel, I forgot what I was reading towards and enjoyed the relationship study between the characters more!

  • This sounds wonderful!

  • The relationships in this book sound very interesting. I also like how you described the story as “domestic fiction”.

    • They definitely have a relationship that I don’t think I can fully understand at times, but it is an interesting relationship nonetheless.

  • Kelly TheWellReadRedhead

    This sounds like everything I love in a novel! Relationship drama is my favorite. 🙂

  • stephanie

    Sounds like a book i would read

  • Great review! I heard of this book in passing over the summer and the premise sounds really intriguing.

    Domestic fiction…the term never crossed my mind but that makes total sense! xD

  • Isi

    Oh, this sounds like my cup of tea, Mel!
    I’ll look for it!