Life Drawing

  • by Robin Black
  • Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
  • 9 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

"Fine-tuned and exactly observed... With such well-rounded characters and a highwire level of suspense, the novel builds to a devastating resolution." (The Daily Mail)
"Black's command of the story carries us swiftly through ever more dangerous rapids.... She captures the various pains and pleasures of love, and how betrayal distorts and damages, with superb subtlety." (BBC)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Elegant prose, honest reflection on marriage

Within the first lines of Life Drawing, Robin Black's stunning debut novel, we learn that the narrator's husband, Owen, has died, although we still don't know the details of how this happened.

This is one of those novels that although provides great suspense and engages the reader's curiosity from the beginning, it's not so much about guessing the outcome as much as it is about how the story and its characters develop.

As Gus begins narrating their story, the couple's relationship have apparently survived an extra-marital affair in which she was the guilty party. Right after the affair ended, she decided to take the honest approach and confessed the whole thing to Owen.

Owen is a 51 year-old writer and Gus is a 47 year-old painter, they have accomplished a moderate level of success on their respective careers, good enough to provide a comfortable middle class life style.

Eventually and after receiving an unexpected inheritance, the couple retreats from their cosmopolitan life in the city and decide to buy a secluded 1918 farmhouse in Pennsylvania. On the surface it looks that Gus and Owen have found "safety in their solitude". The seclusion would theoretically serve a dual purpose, help them heal but also provide a idyllic, sheltered place where their creativity can flourish.

But there are certain dynamics that drive a relationship, some of them are openly acknowledged and recognized by the partners some of them are not. And underneath their seemingly perfect life, there are many pending issues that haven't been resolved and threaten their relationship.

Enter Alison Hemmings, a pretty and charming English divorcee who has just moved to the rental house nearby. After initially resisting Alison's intrusion into their very private lives, Gus and Alison become good friends and eventually Gus tells Alison the details of her affair with a married man.

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.

Life Drawing 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. And yet with all these serious themes it's a truly delightful read.

Casandra Campbell's narration was wonderful. She seamlessly delivers the virtues and flaws of all these characters in a pitch perfect performance.
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- Iris Pereyra "Addicted to books, but especially to audiobooks!"

Very annoying characters

Maybe I shouldn't have ordered this book because I don't care much for domestic dramas but the art aspect appealed to me. The parts of the book about art were in fact very good.
I'm not a reader who necessarily has to like the characters in a book, but these characters were simply annoying. The narrator is extremely egocentric and the other characters are not much better. Also, on approximately every other page someone is apologizing about something.
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- C

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-15-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio