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Struggling to cope with urban life - and life in general - Frankie, a 20-something artist, retreats to her family's rural house on "turbine hill", vacant since her grandmother's death three years earlier. It is in this space, surrounded by countryside and wild creatures, that she can finally grapple with the chain of events that led her here - her shaky mental health, her difficult time in art school - and maybe, just maybe, regain her footing in art and life.
As Frankie picks up photography once more, closely examining the natural world around her, she reconsiders seminal works of art and their relevance. With "prose that makes sure we look and listen" (Atlantic), Sara Baume has written an elegant novel that is as much an exploration of wildness, the art world, mental illness, and community as it is a profoundly beautiful and powerful meditation on life.
"After a remarkable and deservedly award-winning debut, here is a novel of uniqueness, wonder, recognition, poignancy, truth-speaking, quiet power, strange beauty and luminous bedazzlement. Once again, I've been Baumed." (Joseph O'Connor)
"Unflinching, at times uncomfortable, and always utterly compelling, A Line Made by Walking is among the best accounts of grief, loneliness and depression that I have ever read. Every word of it rings true, the truth of hard-won knowledge wrested from the abyss. Shot through with a wild, yearning melancholy, it is nevertheless mordantly witty. It felt, to me, kindred to Olivia Laing's The Lonely City: not just on a superficial level, a young woman seeking solace in art, but in the urgent depth of its quest to understand and articulate what it means to make art, and what art might mean for the individual, lost and lonely; how it might bring us out of, or back to, ourselves." (Lucy Caldwell)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Gillian on 04-28-17
Sorry, But This Lacks Elegance...
The joy of literary fiction is that you don't just look through a window, you see the beauty of the glass, the frame, the intent of the artist.
"Spill Simmer Falter Wither" was the most divine look at the world that I'd read/listened to in such a long time. But "A Line Made By Walking" lacks the elegance, the brilliance of sunlight against shadow, the ability to make rust something glorious.
Here, Baume is attempting to make the faded, painful dustiness of depression a work of art, by using some fine prose, by testing it, side-by-side, against other works of art, by trying to capture the fine line between when something is alive, when something is dead.
Frankie, twenty-five and now twenty-six, is a woman wallowing in depression, struggling with mental illness, trying to find her way back to a sturdy casualness with the world. But she's a fractious woman, a woman who is apt to tell the people who love her to f-off, which she does quite often.
I get it. I struggle with debilitating clinical depression and while I find that Baume gets close to a real description of the illness, Frankie's wholeness, if you will, just rings false. "A Line Made By Walking" doesn't even begin to capture the black, the emptiness that other works of fiction do so well.
Lacking too is the beautiful language, word choices, one of a kind figurative phrasing that made her debut book so stunning. Baume seems like she wrote this quickly, trying to get that second book in as part of a two-book deal with her publisher.
While this is a fine enough book and Frankie is a candid person with a nice ability to pick out the details and make decent enough comparisons, the floating-on-the-surface quality of it wasn't enough to engage me flat-out. I put the book away often: not because I wanted to savor each word, as I did with "Spill Simmer Falter Wither", but because I just didn't really care, even when it met its evasive conclusion.
Worth it for the language, but I'd wait for a sale or a Daily Deal...
11 of 17 people found this review helpful