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Portrait of a marriage,
This review is from: Life Drawing (Hardcover)
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August (Gus) and her husband Owen have retreated to their cabin in the woods, ostensibly to find some space to pursue their careers as an artist and a writer respectively, but also to try to repair the damage done to their marriage by the affair Gus had a few years earlier. They're wallowing in their anti-social, introspective existence and do not immediately welcome the arrival of Alison, the woman who is renting the house next to theirs for the summer. However, first Gus and then Owen are gradually charmed and beguiled by Alison and her daughter Nora until the two families become dangerously close, sharing intimacies and indiscretions to a point where you just know it's not going to end well.
Gus is our narrator and just how reliable she is comes into question fairly early on in the novel. She's paranoid that her husband will take his revenge by having an affair of his own and her state of mind is not helped by the fact that she's still grieving for her beloved older sister who died five years earlier and dealing with her father's Alzheimer's which is becoming rapidly and violently worse. She's also reached a bit of a hiatus with her work, until she comes across some newspapers from 1918 during renovation work on the house and becomes immersed in the stories of the local boys who didn't come back from the war in Europe.
Robin Black has a pared-down, no nonsense style of writing which suits the tone of the book perfectly. The pace is fairly slow and thoughtful, but all the better for giving the reader a chance to absorb the nuances of Gus and Owen's claustrophobic relationship and the effect the arrival of Alison and her daughter has on it. The tension mounts slowly and steadily as Gus's doubts about her husband's fidelity spiral and the dramatic ending, although rather out of kilter with the tone of the rest of the book, certainly added a new dimension to the storyline.
I wouldn't describe Life Drawing as a psychological thriller; it's more subtle than that. I know some people found it too introspective but I became totally absorbed into Gus's world of paranoia and self-doubt and look forward to reading more from this talented author in the future.