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life-drawing

From the author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, Life Drawing is a fierce, honest and moving story of married life--its betrayals, intimacies, and secrets.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 AuFrom the author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, Life Drawing is a fierce, honest and moving story of married life--its betrayals, intimacies, and secrets.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 Augusta 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, Augusta 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.Fierce, honest and astonishingly gripping, Life Drawing is a novel as beautiful and unsparing as the human heart.....

Title : Life Drawing
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781400068562
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Life Drawing Reviews

  • Elyse
    2018-11-24 06:33

    Update: $1.99 Kindle special today. I own the Hard copy! --But I plan to purchase this Kindle special price also. Its one of my favorite books --I'm also a big fan of Robin Black!GREAT PRICE! -------------**Great Read**!!!An ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!!READ *Jan Ellison's* review'.... She wrote completely how I feel!!!! In case you are lazy...*Jan Ellison* says, "What a brilliant, beautiful, heartbreaking novel. It does what only the best books do--remind us that there is no experience as exquisite, as immersive, as transformative, as being lost in a fiction that contains so much truth about love and life." [WOW!--thank you for that Jan] Here a few places where I paused to reflect on memories from my own life ... (there are an abundance of breathtaking sentences written by Robin Black).1) "That news had reopened a landscape of memories from which I could not easily look away"2) "To be truthful can often be both right and wrong"3) "I rather enjoyed being the oddball daughter-in-law to a pair of distinctly non-parental characters who seemed to have wandered off the set of a Noel Coward play, brandy snifters in hand." Sometimes you hear..."I didn't want this novel to end". I REALLY did NOT want this novel to end! At the same time --I appreciate this book was under 300 pages (leaving me wanting more). A perfect novel!

  • Iris P
    2018-11-22 05:43

    Within the first lines of Robin Black's stunning debut novel, Life Drawing: A Novel, we learn that the narrator's husband, Owen, has died, although we are yet to learn the details of how this happened.This is one of those novels that provide great suspense and engages the reader's curiosity from the beginning, but it's not so much about guessing the outcome as it is about how the story and how the characters develop.I realize that there's a tendency to use lots of hyperbole when describing books you liked, but I don't think stating that Life Drawing: A Novel is a devastatingly honest reflection on marriage is at all over the top.As Gus -short for Augusta- is looking back and reminiscing on her 25 years of marriage to Owen and is trying to "make sense of it all", she reflects:"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."I love finding patterns.We learn that the couple have seemingly survived an extra-marital affair in which Gus was the guilty party. Right after the affair ended, she decides to be honest and confesses her indiscretion to Owen.Owen a 51 year-old writer and Gus a 47 year-old painter, have accomplished a moderate level of success in their respective careers, good enough to provide a comfortable middle class life-style.The fact that they don't have children adds a layer of complexity on how their relationship is affected by the affair. When someone is unfaithful and there are not children in a marriage, does that make the decision to stay or go easier or more complicated? Arguably the childless couple that decides to stay could claim to have a stronger bond?? Perhaps not necessarily so...After receiving an unexpected inheritance, the couple decides to retreat from their cosmopolitan life in the city and buy a secluded 1918 farmhouse in Pennsylvania - so secluded that Gus is able to tender his garden on her underwear without fear of being accused of impropriety! On the surface it looks that as Gus puts it, they have found "safety in their solitude". Their seclusion would theoretically serve a dual purpose, help the relationship heal, but also provide an idyllic, sheltered place where their creativity can flourish.But there are certain dynamics that drive a relationship, some of which are openly acknowledged and recognized by the partners and some that are not.At one point Gus reflects:"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."So there are quite a few unspoken undercurrents playing in the background, one of them is the remorse Gus feels not only for having been unfaithful to Owen, but also for what she believes is another negative consequence of her affair, namely his persistent writer's block. There's also this question in Gus's mind: If you have been unfaithful to your spouse, do you have the right to expect fidelity? Once you have become the first transgressor, does that gives a "free jail card" to you partner to do the same?Gus ruminates:"I always half believe that Owen would have an affair one day himself to restore balance of a kind. In certain moods, dark moods, I even believed he was entitled, though the thought of it was hideous to me."Enter Alison Hemmings, a pretty and charming English divorcee who has just moved to the rental house nearby.After initially resisting and resenting Alison's intrusion into their very private lives, Gus and Allison become good friends, perhaps one might say a little bit too quickly. But they find that they have lots in common, they are both middle-aged women with a love for the arts, good food and wine.There's no doubt thought, that the moment Alison gets in the picture she upsets the balance between Gus and Owen, but not in an obvious or intentional way.It's maybe out of guilt, loneliness, her continuous need to cleanse her past sins or a combination of all these, that Gus chooses to reveal to Allison the details of her affair and how this decision is still having an impact in her marriage.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 for a long time.To me the one of the most peculiar aspects of this novel is how Black manages to create a tragic story that by the end keeps the reader wondering, who am I supposed to blame for this train wreck? Perhaps most like it happens in real life, every character plays a role and shares some responsibility for the -ultimate- horrible outcome. Life Drawing: A Novel also has some wonderful introspective passages about inspiration and creativity like this one:There are moments in a creative life when you understand why you do it. Those moments might last a few seconds or maybe, for some people, years. But whatever the actual time that passes, the still feel like a single moment. Fragile in the way a moment is, liable to be shattered by a breath, set apart from all the the other passing time, distinct.The novel also reflects in the classic theme of the interdependence between creativity and passion. What role does love, sensuality and sex play in the creative life of an artist?Life Drawing: A Novel 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. I found it to be a delightful read.

  • Diane S ☔
    2018-12-07 04:48

    This book was a total surprise for me. One never knows what goes on in a marriage. We see people holding hands, couples that seem to have kept the spark alive for many years, yet we never knows what they have gone through, if they are as happy as they appear. I felt somewhat of a voyeur r3eading about the long term relationship portrayed in this book.This is Gus's story, a story chronicling the long term relationship and eventual marriage of her and Owen. He is a writer suffering from writer's block and she is an artist, trying a series of portraits forth first time. This I a simple story, but multi-layered, so not as simple as oft first appears. It starts out very slowly and I first I did not much like Gus. Yet, I found her story compelling. They live in almost total isolation in a farmhouse, trying to repair their marriage and the trust that had been broken between them. Then a new neighbor moves in and their isolation is broken.It s a rare author that can convey in words, the moods, the emotions and the needs of her characters and this author, for me, did just that. The characters are all flawed, made mistakes, feel love, friendship and resentment. This is a quiet, yet profound story, showing the impact of things that seem innocent at the time. I was drawn into their lives, and wished good things for them. But as in real life sometimes that is just not possible. ARC from publisher.

  • Jeanette
    2018-11-19 07:34

    If this novel were to take out an ad in the personals, that ad might read "absolutely must love domestic fiction". If, like me, you tend to equate contemporary domestic fiction with chick lit, please don't make that mistake here. Life Drawing is serious literary fiction, plumbing the depths of a long-term relationship and exposing the consequences of impulsive behavior. As with all contemplative fiction, the plot is simply a vehicle for exploring human folly and the commonalities we share as flawed creatures. Augusta ("Gus") and Owen, a painter and a writer, have moved out to the country with the intention of rebuilding their bond in the wake of Gus's infidelity. They've made a lot of progress in that regard, but then Alison moves into the abandoned house nearby and changes the entire dynamic. Gus's heartache about never having been a mother, her guilt over a brief affair, and her exasperation with Owen's writer's block lead her to share too much private information with Alison. Her indiscretions culminate in a dramatic climax that was the least realistic part of the book for me. But it's brief and it's blunt, and the rest of the book is masterful enough to overcome this slight weakness. First-person narration can at times be cheesy or irritating, but I did not find that to be a problem in this novel. Gus is a reliable and realistic narrator. Whenever I felt irritated with her I had to step back and admit that she was making me squirm because yes, in her shoes I might have been just as petty and jealous and overreactive as she. Gus tells us her story after Owen has died, with the sharpened focus and glaring perspective that comes only after we have lost someone we loved, and sometimes hated, too. While we are in a relationship with another, the dailiness of life with them prevents us from seeing them clearly, because "you cannot see a landscape you are in." Only when they're gone can the clear sight come and the honesty pour out, as we mourn and mine the lessons with no further need for defensiveness.What Robin Black has done so adeptly in Life Drawing is show how our long-term relationships can flourish only in direct proportion to how much of the past we are willing to drop. The accumulation of love, affection, security, and shared history is often accompanied by a growing pile of old wounds, insults, disappointments, guilt, and blame. Gus and Owen truly do love each other, but they're always tiptoeing around that heap of old issues, and it makes them mistrustful and combative. Congratulations to Robin Black for an insightful and tautly written first novel.

  • Robert
    2018-11-17 01:26

    Clearly, I must have read a different novel than my compatriots. I swear to you I didn’t do it on purpose. NetGalley must have sent me the wrong book via cyberspace; I downloaded it to my Kindle, and then remained entirely detached throughout most of this tale. Which as I write this puts me in the minority, and not just any minority, mind you, a minority that currently hovers at 6%. I pride myself on being different, but my sandbox must be on another planet, and I sure as shit hope it’s not Pluto, otherwise I’m bound to run out of oxygen before I even make it out of the earth’s atmosphere.Normally, I avoid quoting the book’s synopsis, but I draw your attention to these two sentences: 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. What could have possibly gone wrong, you might ask? Every damn thing. I don’t question Robin Black’s talent as a writer, and there might have even been lyrical precision contained within the 256 pages, but I felt no suspense, no real connection to this world, or the characters.Instead of characters with heart and beauty, I was dealt Gus and Owen, both of whom had massive sticks stuffed up their bums, and frankly, Alison and Nora weren’t much better. I did begin to question whether or not I’d actually make it to the end, which did add a layer of suspense, but I don’t believe it’s what the author or publisher intended. I wouldn’t call the story beautiful, but it did contain an element of narcissistic realism, and therefore, could just as easily have taken place on reality television with a couple of hopeful supermodels and wanna-be actors blanketed in the wonderful utopia otherwise known as LA.Maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time, or maybe I just missed the point (wouldn’t be the first time), or maybe I have the IQ of a slug. Whatever it is, I shall slink back in my shell, change my clocks, sharpen my pencil, and set my sights elsewhere. I received this book for free through NetGalley.Cross-posted at Robert's Reads

  • Duane
    2018-12-11 02:44

    This is the story of Augusta (Gus), Owen, Alison, Nora, Bill, and Laine. The story is told by Gus; fragile, unassuming, vulnerable, imperfect Gus. She is an artist, a painter with modest accomplishments, married to Owen, a writer, also with modest accomplishments. This is the story of their life, past and present, the mistakes made, the burdens to bear, and how those mistakes and burdens haunt their lives...always. Reading this, I was embarrassed at times, feeling like a voyeur to someones private thoughts and worries; feeling the pain and regrets, the hopes and fears of someones life, too personal for me, a stranger, to hear. The writing by Robin Black is exceptional. Engrossing from first page to last; 21st century literature at it's best. 4.5 stars.Revised December 2017.

  • Violet wells
    2018-11-15 23:45

    This is the story of Augusta and Owen who have retreated into the country to pursue their artistic ambitions but whose life together is turned upside down by the arrival of a new neighbour. Problem number one: I was never convinced either of them had any artistic talent. Owen is such a dull feckless man whose dialogue is so wooden and banal that it was impossible to imagine him as an underappreciated cult writer. Augusta too comes across as a dilettante artist. You have the feeling both are burying their heads in the sand and were they to have proper jobs they might refrain from their obsessive tiresome naval gazing. Problem number two: I never felt the author was in control of her material. Augusta has earlier betrayed her husband but he has forgiven her, though, perhaps as a consequence, he is contending with writer’s block. So, we presume the novel is about the diminishing returns of marriage or the “corrosive effects of betrayal”. But then all kinds of disconnected themes are shoehorned into the novel. Augusta is obsessed with dead WW1 soldiers and they are her next painting project. I never had a clue what this was all about. She is also obsessed with her dead mother and dead sister both of whom died young. And she is coping with her father who has dementia. All of a sudden the novel seems to be about departure and absence and remembering/forgetting. But for me she never manages to connect all these threads. She’s constantly tossing in stuff that we’re supposed to believe has a thematic profundity but for me it was random and messy. The English neighbour one night kills a doe with her reckless driving. Her daughter then arrives at the house who is portrayed as a bit of an innocent. But the connection between the two events is not only gratuitous but all wrong. The mother doesn’t kill innocence. The naval gazing couple do that. Problem number three: My Oscar for most irritating male character I’ve encountered this year goes to Updike’s rabbit; my vote for most irritating female character goes to Augusta, the narrator of this novel. Crikey is she tiresome! And her husband isn’t much better. Possibly the most boring unconvincing writer ever fictionalised. Problem number four: The relentless ellipses in the fragmented dialogue drove me bonkers. No one could speak without dramatic pauses. “I think…What I mean is…Though, of course…I understand how you…feel.” This constant striving to pump up the volume became almost comical eventually. Often while reading this I couldn’t help thinking of the hugely successful novels I’ve read about marital strife – A Change Of Climate by Hilary Mantel and Freedom by Franzen for example – and how thin and unwise this was in comparison.

  • Leanne
    2018-12-08 23:50

    I feel like there are a million books out there that discuss marriage. There are a million slow character studies. And a million books about artists and their creative lives.But this book is special. The premise is fairly simple - Augusta and Owen are a lifelong free-spirited artist couple (she a painter, he a writer) that only gave in to the institution of marriage after they were almost torn apart by the betrayal of one of them, and have moved out to a secluded country house to rebuild their relationship. Alison, a friendly and affectionate semi-artist with a darkish past, moves in next door and Augusta befriends her despite her usual reservations towards new people in her life. Alison's daughter, aspiring writer Nora, also moves in for a short time, bringing with her an admiration for the published work Owen has done and bringing up Gus' buried regrets about her lack of children.I haven't read something so wise and complex for a long time. You feel like you're in the middle of this marriage, of this fast-moving yet deep friendship, of the crushing affair and its consequences. None of the 4 main characters are especially "likeable" but they're also not caricatures or villains - they are well-drawn and realistic and sympathetic in their flaws. There's a tense undercurrent through the entire narrative due to a revelation made in the first few pages, but the plot takes a few unexpected turns, and even the parts that are more cliché seem fresh because of Black's beautiful prose and insights. I ended it practically sobbing - and for me, that is an excellent endorsement. I'm not stone-hearted, but I don't cry at just anything. This one crushed the tears out of me with its poignant beauty, and sometimes that's exactly what you want out of a book. Originally 4 stars, but bumped up to 5 because I'm still thinking about it and missing it a week later.

  • Julie Christine
    2018-11-14 06:31

    I need to create a new virtual bookshelf: Marriage--Not for the faint of heart.Early into Life Drawing I thought, "I just don't read a lot of marriage plot books. I don't really like the domestic story." Then I took a glance through my past reads. Hah. Madame Bovary. Anna Karenina. The Portrait of a Lady. Jane Eyre. Rebecca. Little Women. The Scarlet Letter. Crossing to Safety. The Color Purple. A Death in the Family. The Grapes of Wrath. Brick Lane. The Corrections. Gone Girl. The Interestings. Apple Tree Yard. To name just a few. Does the marriage theme ever get old? Not for us married folks, I don't think. We love to lean in, poke around, compare, wonder, smirk, gasp, envy ... the endless fascination of peering behind the mirror. I realized, without consciously selecting the marriage story, how many marriages have infiltrated my reading life and my literary psyche. Deceptive best describes Life Drawing. The novel's veneer of calm. The narrator's façade of detachment and poise. The marriage's semblance of harmony. The neighbor's appearance of compassion. The window dressing of lives is deceptively composed, and Robin Black sets fire to the tissue-thin material holding it all together. Life Drawing is narrated by Augusta "Gus" Edelman, a painter living a reclusive existence with her husband Owen, a writer. Falling into an inheritance, Gus and Owen have left behind the uncertainty of their moderate artistic success in Philadelphia and purchased a farmhouse in the Pennsylvania countryside. They are also fleeing a stormy period in their marriage, during which Gus had a brief affair with the father of a painting student. The book opens several years after the affair and three years into their quiet lives in their country idyll. Their solitude is disrupted by the arrival of a new neighbor, Alison, who becomes a confidante of Gus's, much to Gus's own surprise. Soon after, Alison's grown daughter, Nora - a recent college graduate, an aspiring writer, and an admirer of Owen's work - joins her mother for an extended stay. Her admiration of Owen turns into infatuation and the married couple's responses to this challenge to their union has shuddering, and ultimately shattering, consequences. Perfidy in marriage is a tried and true theme. Perhaps even timeworn. Oh, but not in Robin Black's hands. Her craft is brilliant. In a year when I have read some massive tomes (e.g. The Luminaries, Goldfinch, Americanah) Black's sheer economy of word and image is powerful and refreshing. Yet there is nothing spare in her syntax. Her sentences are gorgeous: The day is thinning into darkness, the light evaporating, so the fat, green midsummer trees not fifty feet away seem to be receding, excusing themselves from the scene.andBill and I had been tender with each other in the way only lovers with stolen time can sustain. Even in parting, gentle, gentle, gentle, like the tedious people who must unwrap every present slowly, leaving the paper entirely intact. Her plotting is tight and clean, unsurprising for a writer whose previous work of fiction was a highly-praised collection of short stories. One of the themes she illustrates painfully, touchingly, is the distance between these two artists, a distance that reflects how far apart their married life has drifted. Owen is mired in a writer's block; by contrast, Gus has entered a period of tremendous inspiration and creativity. She cannot discuss her productivity for fear of hurting her husband; shame and frustration silence him. It's brilliant example of how marriage between like-minded, like-tempered individuals can look so harmonious from the outside, but within the jealousy and competition seethe. For a novel modest in length, Life Drawing is rich and complex in theme and character. It is about the biggest of things-love, trust, family, death-wrapped in the most unpretentious of packages. I feel wobbly about the ending--it's high drama and it hurt. But Gus and Owen's struggles-as individuals, as partners in a marriage-resonated deeply.

  • Dem
    2018-11-23 06:38

    Life Drawing by Robin Black is one of those books that I could easily have passed by if not for a couple of Goodreads friend's reviews. Slow to begin with and yet interesting enough to get my attention, this is one of those books that requires patience as its not full of drama or twists and turns and yet the atmosphere and the emotion of this story really had a huge impact on me. There was times I felt I was a fly on the wall in Gus and Owens home and while the characters are flawed and not particularly likable they made very interesting reading.Extremely well written and I think I only appreciated how well this book was written when I had finished it and the characters and events were still spinning around in my head. I listened to this on audio and the narrator was excellent as the pace was perfect and the emotions conveyed were very real.I love books about relationships and family and Life drawing was one that I really enjoyed. I think this would make an interesting discussion book.

  • Esil
    2018-11-22 01:29

    A high 4 stars. Robin Black's writing is fabulous. In Life Lessons, she layers nuances of feeling, emotion, and impressions beautifully in what feels like effortless prose. There were so many sentences and passages that I wanted to capture, savour and keep close in plain view. The story is simple. Gus -- aka Augusta -- and Owen retreat to a life of isolation in a house in the country. Gus is a painter and Owen is a writer. A new neighbour -- Alison -- moves in, putting an end to Gus and Owen's isolation. Gus is the narrator. At the beginning of the book, Gus informs the reader that Owen has died, and then the narrative takes us through the last few months of Gus and Owen's life together. Black slowly builds up a sense of tension, as Gus reveals the events leading to Owen's death. The narration is intense and deeply engaging -- a careful dissection of Gus and Owen's life together. It is a story very much about the connections and chasms that build up in their relationship -- like in any long relationship. And the end made me cry. And the last chapter was so particularly beautiful. Thank you to a few Goodreads friends -- Elyse and Iris in particular -- for pointing me toward Life Drawing. I was starved for good writing and this definitely did the trick.

  • Dianne
    2018-11-17 23:40

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…..when first we practice to deceive.” (Walter Scott)Painter Gus (Augusta) and writer Owen are married and live in an isolated farmhouse in the country, in a state of self-exile as they clumsily work to recover an affair Gus had two years ago. Adding to the strain is the fact that Gus is “in the zone” creatively and Owen is struggling with a massive case of writer’s block. A British woman, Alison, moves into an adjoining property and Alison and Gus become friends, exchanging confidences over longs walks and cups of tea. At the same time, Gus’ father begins exhibiting signs of dementia, Gus’s former lover’s child re-enters Gus’s life and Alison’s daughter, Nora, develops an infatuation with Owen. In lesser hands, this toxic stew would become a soap opera, but Black has a light hand and the writing is nuanced, with a slowly deepening sense of foreboding. She starts her book by stating the ending, but you have no idea how you are going to get there – the journey is suspenseful, engrossing and insightful.A very well done debut novel. Recommend.Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for an advance reader copy of this book.

  • Karen G
    2018-12-12 06:52

    I am going to copy what my Goodreads friend Joyce wrote about this novel because it's just perfect...Joyce said ...It's simple, but complicated. It's a mixture of feelings, love, betrayal, honesty, lies, what's said and what's not said, it's light, it's heavy. It's the universe of a marriage -- a Life Drawing. And it's a very good book.

  • Nichole
    2018-12-01 03:26

    This novel about marriage and friendship and confidences and betrayal is a sock-knocker-offer. The portrait of a mature marriage is the best I’ve read since Crossing to Safety, the waxing and waning of tensions, so real. The spectacular first-person point of view (the wife) hits just right — not self pitying or self aggrandizing, just real and honest and true. And the gotta-know suspense of something revealed on the first page lasts the whole book long. So few novels really nail mature middle-age relationships: the arguing without saying a word, the subjects that become taboo, one after another, leaving whole fields of conversations unsayable. The ability to go for chilly months doing penance for a misdeed, and then a slow thaw. The fact that a marriage can have a spring again. It’s terrain not covered enough, or covered well. And this book claims it like planting a flag on the moon.

  • Carol
    2018-12-10 04:30

    Meet Owen, a struggling writer and Augusta (Gus), a creative painter. Their story begins with a betrayal of the worst sort and a bad, but honest decision to tell the truth causing gut-wrenching hurt, but then......forgiveness prevails.Next, in steps the beautiful new neighbor Alison with an abusive x-husband and her Amazon-Like gorgeous, but meddling daughter Nora who causes disastrous complications that lead to the uncovering of more betrayals.....(view spoiler)[a brutal act of violence (hide spoiler)].....death (no spoiler here)......and.....sorrow.Life Drawing (great title) is a simple story really, but the prose is addictive....almost mesmerizing.....it slowly, but effectively captivates the reader making the characters come to life like you know them personally. When Robin is describing the three paintings of the WWI soldiers she imagines from the old obituary(view spoiler)[found in the wall of her old farmhouse, (hide spoiler)] I truly felt like I could see them. Look forward to more from Robin Black!(view spoiler)[(I was left with one question though.....Was Owen really writing anything while secluded in the barn with Nora each day? If so, where was his work?) (hide spoiler)]

  • Jen
    2018-11-18 02:41

    A story of a husband and wife. A relationship tested and tried. A neighbour who moves in next door and befriends the wife. A friendship that develops and blossoms between the two women. A daughter who is drawn to the husband. A friendship that is betrayed. This is a very intimate read - between spouses and friends; trust that is broken and a fallout that is both a blessing and a curse. Black is poetic in her writing. 4 Stars.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2018-11-18 06:46

    “…you cannot see a landscape you are in. But you do begin to see it when you step away.”These sentences are spoken by the narrator, forty-seven year-old Augusta “Gus” Edelman, who is an artist. She and her husband, Owen, live out in rural Pennsylvania, in a rambling old 1918 farmhouse that they bought and renovated three years ago, leaving their social life in Philly behind for a bucolic setting that would also stir the creative juices. From the opening, we learn that Gus had an affair in 2005, before they were wed, and then got married “because I had broken the promise that we had never made.” And, it is evident that she is narrating the past, after Owen’s death. Tragically, he had an affair since they moved out to the country--and only had one neighbor! As a matter of fact, they enjoyed their solitude until Alison, a private high school science teacher on sabbatical, rented the property next to them. This novel is a rendering of Gus stepping away from the landscape, metaphorically speaking, and reflecting how their relationship with Alison shattered their lives.I have read multitudes of novels about adulterous love affairs, and am quick to put one down that is prosaic or melodramatic. I’m delighted to declare that Black’s debut novel is fresh, literary, and ripe with extended metaphor. Rather than focusing on the love affair, it follows the arc of a marriage. The subplot concerns Owen’s prolonged writer’s block and Gus’s recent artistic inspiration. While refurbishing one of the bathrooms, Gus discovered old newspaper used for insulation inside the walls, dated from WW I. They contain photographic obituaries that propel Gus to want to draw them--they who died in the war--and place them in a quotidian domestic scene, one that conveys a story. Portraiture/human likeness is not her forte—she likes vistas and buildings--anything that could be seen from a window, so this is indeed a challenging project. In the meantime, Owen goes out to the renovated barn every day, and produces nothing. Their current work efforts and the affairs of the heart become symbolically laced with each other.The prose is lean, taut, and butter-smooth. The secondary characters are as full-bodied as the primary ones, and Black provides a suspenseful premise from the beginning, and the reader follows the thread excitedly through some surprising twists. Be prepared for some unsettling moments, and all are authentically portrayed. She is confident, assured, and writes like a veteran (she does have a collection of short stories). I will be lining up at the front of the queue for her next novel!

  • Larry H
    2018-11-24 04:31

    There are certain books you would like to devour in one or two sittings because of the suspense or tension their plots generate—you just need to know what will happen next and how the plot will be resolved. Then there are other books you wish you could devour because the writing is so breathtaking and you are so engaged in what is happening with the characters. The two aren't always mutually exclusive, but for me, books often fall in one category or the other.Robin Black's Life Drawing definitely fell into the latter category for me. This book was so exquisitely written, so compelling, I would have been happy if it were double its length. (This isn't a surprise, of course; Black's short story collection, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This was among the best books I read in 2011.)Owen and Augusta (Gus) have been together for a long time. He is a writer and she is an artist, and they've always lived a happy but slightly unorthodox, anti-establishment kind of life. But after their relationship nearly collapses following Gus' confession to a short-lived affair, they move away from their city life in Philadelphia to an isolated farmhouse in the country, where they try to concentrate on work and rebuilding the trust between them. They both struggle with their work at times, and although things seem to improve between them, there is always some underlying tension."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."Into their isolation comes Alison, who rents the vacant farmhouse next door. Although Gus is at first resentful of Alison's stopping by and encouraging the couple to socialize with her, she eventually comes to enjoy Alison's companionship, and both disclose the secrets that are plaguing them, and Alison also is a sympathetic ear to Gus' struggles with her father's increasing descent into Alzheimer's. But when Alison's young daughter, Nora, comes to visit, her presence, and what she brings along with her, threatens to shatter all of their relationships."I was right up close in a staring contest with the undeniable fact that for all the little things over which we have some control, for the most part we have none; and I was at a loss to know how to respond."Life Drawing, well, draws you into its plot almost immediately. Gus, Owen, and Alison are complex characters. They're not always 100 percent likable but they're utterly fascinating, and although Black divulges one major plot twist early in the book, you still wonder how the story will get there. Sure, this type of story has been seen countless times before, but it's also different, and Black's skilled storytelling definitely sets it apart.This is a book about trying to keep your heart and your head aligned, about how you can simultaneously love and dislike someone, and about how the things you fear can often come back to haunt you. I am sad to have finished this (despite flying through it) and can't stop thinking about these characters. As soon as Robin Black's next book comes out, I will undoubtedly leap on it. She's just that good. See all my reviews (and other stuff) at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  • Paula
    2018-11-28 03:38

    I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.Beautifully written - lovely, spare prose in a book that almost reads itself, Life Drawing takes on a well-worn topic and unfortunately brings nothing new, interesting or insightful to it. Ultimately disjointed and more than a bit implausible, it peters out, ending with an event some have called startling and devastating; but the method is too silly and contrived to have any real bite. Classic deus ex machina. Life Drawing has been marketed as a dark, psychological study; however it is more a shallow peeking at four nasty little hairy spiders under a microscope, all of whom scuttle off to their respective webs at the book's end, albeit one more permanently than the others. And ironically, that little spider is the only one that even came close to achieving the edgy, dark complexity this book tried to bring to its little quartet.For all their mind games and cruel manipulations, these four have no real power, learn nothing, achieve nothing, dark or otherwise. There is no edge, no bite to any of them, and the success of this story really needed it to keep it from deteriorating into exercises in navel-gazing. And because of this, Gus' artistic project, which is obviously meant to be a metaphorical representation of the characters' outer facades versus their inner, disturbing underbellies/layers is unsuccessful, not only because the project itself is dull and uninspired, but also because not one character has more than one shallow layer. Not one is complex, dark, edgy or interesting. All four are one-dimensional, almost cardboard cutouts as lifeless as the faded images in the pages of those old crinkled newspapers. Which is sadly funny because you can tell that they all think they are very interesting indeed. There is no life to this life drawing. With one beautifully poignant exception: Gus visits her Alzheimer's afflicted father, who tells her that Charlotte (her dead sister) just left. Gus and father spend a lovely time talking about that visit and it's as if Gus has recaptured a time when Charlotte is still alive; where, through bad timing, they have just missed each other. It is a moving, beautifully rendered passage. Undoubtedly, Robin Black possesses strong writing chops. Here's hoping the plot and characters of her next novel can live up to her obvious talent. If she can find inspirations that match her impressive abilities and beautiful writing voice, she will knock it out of the park. Until then, there are novels out there that more successfully explore these themes.

  • Zoeytron
    2018-11-16 05:31

    This debut novel depicts a painful slice of life that lays bare the damage done to a relationship by infidelity. Gus has been physically unfaithful and with the affair now over, she unburdens her conscience by admitting every detail of her indiscretion to her husband, Owen. Together, Gus and Owen forge ahead with their tattered relationship, but the accord is tenuous. The delicate balance is upset with the advent of a new neighbor, Alison Hemmings, who insinuates herself into the Edelman's life with her first 'Halloooo!'. It will not be long before old wounds are reopened and buried resentments surface.The writing was fine, the characters believable. I learned a new word, "palimpsest", which can mean either a manuscript of parchment that has been written on, erased, then written on again, or an object or a place that reflects its history. This was a first-reads giveaway, thank you.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2018-12-06 02:50

    “There are often two conversations going on in a marriage. The one that you’re having and the one you’re not.” This rather chilling psychological study of a marriage between two artists left me feeling sobered. Black packs so much into a short novel: betrayal, creativity, jealousy, domestic violence, a parent with dementia, idealism, writer’s block, grief, religion, inspiration. The narrator, painter Augusta (Gus), is the one who has had an affair – a relatively rare choice of perspective: the repentant partner rather than the wronged one.When an Englishwoman, Alison, moves in next door to Gus and Owen’s isolated country home, Gus is unsure whether to let a stranger into the intimacy of her marriage – especially when Alison’s pretty college-age daughter, Nora, moves in and starts fawning over Owen and his novels. Black maintains subtle tension, although one knows from the first line which character will end up dead. Despite some heavy foreshadowing, I managed to remain oblivious to whodunit and how until the very end.I’ve marked this as “suspense,” but it’s not a mystery novel in any traditional sense; instead, it’s about the mystery of how two people continually shift their lives to accommodate each other: “Nobody outside a marriage can understand it, everyone agrees. As if people inside a marriage can.” Gus is not always a likeable narrator, and I sometimes thought Black was trying to stuff in too much plot, especially backstory, but I was gripped all along. I look forward to her next novel.For more mysterious marriages, see The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler and Orkney by Amy Sackville.

  • Dale Harcombe
    2018-12-06 03:49

    Rating and review to come. Serious thinking going on before writing it.Two and a half stars. Where to start with this novel which came to me from Scribe publications? I wanted to like it and read it fairly quickly. To begin with I was happy enough reading, even though I didn’t like Gus (Augusta) who is a painter or her husband Owen, who is a writer struggling to overcome writer's block. It is a novel about choices and consequences. That and the beautiful prose kept me reading. It deals with themes of friendship, love, trust and forgiveness. Or not! Even though I didn’t relate to the characters at all, despite one of them being a writer, they are well fleshed out. Their isolation in the country is disturbed when Alison moves in next door followed later by her daughter Nora. I wanted to see how the story would unfold, but towards the end I found it very hard to read. It is very raw. Part of that was certainly due to the overuse of bad language. Yes, it showed what the characters had been feeling and at times trying to keep hidden till it erupted, but even so I found it destroyed what to me had been an interesting read till that point. I’m aware others may feel differently about this. So could I say I liked it? No, it was okay. But I could appreciate some of the writer’s skill with words, before we got towards the end.

  • Tooter
    2018-12-09 00:36

    LOVED this book. What a heartbreaker!

  • Catherine McKenzie
    2018-11-30 07:27

    This is one of my favourite reads in the last year or so. Well-written, suspenseful, fantastic. Highly recommend.

  • Trish
    2018-12-04 03:38

    I marked this as fiction, but it felt stultifyingly like some like of memoir. Oh dear. Black should get two stars for being able to get the thing done, but I don’t want to encourage her. There is a painter as the main character in this book. Augusta, or Gus as others call her, paints from life. She can’t really imagine someone or something onto her canvas. Gus is best at detail work. Her husband, Owen, is a writer with writer’s block. My guess is that Black knows more than she should about both those things. So I didn’t like it. The characters were not involved in anything other than retreating from the world on a farm they bought and failing (their words, not mine) at their respective professions. They were not very nice people, either. They didn’t talk much or deeply, and because one of them had an affair earlier in their marriage, it was a sore spot that couldn’t be mentioned again. Since Black pointed to it, I did think of the work as a painting. The detail work Gus excelled in covered a lack of content, just as the unnecessarily flowery language covered Black’s lack of ideas. Sometimes a book about ordinary life is fine, as long as the lives have some depth to them. The characters were plain mean and shallow and said things I cannot imagine anyone saying, or if I had, I would walk away and never come back. The story was so horrifyingly predictable I was actually pissed off. And what’s with all the death? So many folks, and a deer by the end of it, die around them and still Gus can’t rustle up anything but obligation when she visits her dying father. I just don’t get the adulation for this title. I listened to this work, read by Cassandra Campbell. I often wondered if it was the voice of the narrator that grated so…the slightly superior tones certainly did not go with the life this woman was leading. She had nothing to feel superior about.

  • Cher
    2018-12-14 07:50

    3.5 stars - It was really good.This one was slow to build but the ending was well worth the wait. It's cynical and depressing, but an excellent reminder of how the "small" selfish things we do that hurt the ones we love can result in consequences more far-reaching than ever expected.-------------------------------------------Favorite Quote: Life. It begins and begins and begins. An infinite number of times. It is all beginnings until the end comes. Sometimes we know it and sometimes we do not, but, at every moment, life begins again.First Sentence: In the days leading up to my husband Owen’s death, he visited Alison’s house every afternoon.

  • debra
    2018-12-01 06:26

    four-ish-enjoyed it much more than I first thought! The number of my non-review reviews continues to growPS Thank you, Kelly!!

  • Carol
    2018-11-24 06:51

    Wow! Review to follow...........

  • Jennifer
    2018-11-24 05:33

    Life Drawing opens in present-day, but then rewinds a bit to slowly and thoroughly catch the reader up on all that transpired to lead up to that point. The writing is slow and calm, and for a while I forgot the main event that the story was leading back up to until I got there and then I was like, OMG! What just happened??? I didn't mind though; the writing is nothing short of beautiful. The descriptions of the various emotions cycling through this story are amazing and allow the reader to easily empathize with the characters as well as understand the dynamics of the various relationships featured. This is a story about the complexities of relationships, and how choices in life and marriage always lead to consequences- some more harmful than others. Augusta "Gus" and Owen are a married couple who have adopted a quiet and tranquil life in the country in an effort to move on from the past. They have found a way of life that works for them. But a new neighbor, Alison, moves in next door and Gus and Owen's solitude is affected. The past that has been so carefully packed away comes back up along with additional stressors associated with Alison and her family. I'm not actually sure what genre Life Drawing falls into. I initially thought it was women's fiction, but that's not exactly right. It has elements of that, but is also part literary fiction, art, suspense, and romance. Regardless, if you enjoy any of those genres, or if you just like beautiful writing, give this book a try!My favorite quote:"Sometimes life demands things of you that, just the fact of being alive, means allowing for possibilities that may be far from what you planned or even hoped."

  • Jill
    2018-12-08 04:38

    Life and love, for the most part, are made up of messiness and contradiction. Yet in many stories that focus on intimacy and betrayal, the writer carefully draws between the lines. Robin Black is too good a writer to fall into that easy trap; her drawing of a life is imbued with subtle tones and hues.The story is simply yet compellingly told. Augusta – known as Gus – and her husband, Owen, are creative types (she’s an artist, he’s a writer) who have gone into a form of self-isolation after Gus’s affair of the heart. At the start of the novel, Gus is no longer a seductress but instead, an “old, tired soul”, dealing with a heavy load of loss: detached from family, watching her father wither into the twilight zone of Altzheimer’s, feeling the loss of never bringing a child into their lives.Into this mix comes Alison, a possibly disturbed neighbor whose life is upended except for her unconditional love for her teenage daughter, Nora. Their inadvertent trespassing into Gus’s and Owen’s life launches a trajectory that none of them can foresee.Life Drawing is at its best when it explores the ghosts of past, present and future that haunt the couple: Gus’s long-deceased mother and sister, the children never born, and Gus’s latest professional passion, painting imagined dead soldiers whose obituaries were found in the newspapers that insulated Gus and Owen’s farmhouse bathroom. Also, the professional balancing act that occurs when one member of a creative couple is inspired and the other is not hearing his muse is beautifully expressed, as is the concept of trust and withholding.After reading Peter Heller’s The Painter, I wanted to believe more in Gus’s acclaim as an artist than I did. And the ending contained some melodrama that – I believed – cheapened the story. Yet despite those critiques, Robin Black has very adeptly drawn the messiness that occurs when our past gets in the way of our future. A strong debut novel!