‘Life Drawing’ by Robin Black – After Her Affair

‘Life Drawing’ by Robin Black   (2014) – 240 pages


‘Life Drawing’ is a fine mix of the real events in a woman’s life and her consciousness of those events.  Doesn’t that describe a lot of novels?  Yes it does, but it all depends on the style of writing.  Here we have a taut direct voice that puts this story of marital discord across in a dramatic way.  ‘Life Drawing’ is a high-wire act by Robin Black that succeeds.

Augusta (‘Gus’) and Owen are a long-married couple.  Gus is an artist and Owen a writer.  They used to live in Philadelphia until Gus had a few-month affair with a man.   After Owen found out, Gus broke off the affair, and she and Owen moved to this remote farmhouse to try and repair their marriage.  This is where ‘Life Drawing’ begins, at the farmhouse.  However Owen is still deeply resentful of his wife’s infidelity.  He is rigorously polite, but there is no easiness or relaxation in his relations with his wife.  He is also blocked in his writing.  Gus has pursued new painting projects, but she has a deep underlying guilt.

Gus and Owen have lived in isolation in this remote farmhouse for two years, but then a neighbor, Alison, shows up.  She is a divorced mother whose daughter Nora is away at college.  Alison and Gus quick become close friends, sharing drinks and talk on many occasions.

“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. Nora. Young. And elegant – shockingly so, something that hadn’t quite come through at our hurried first meeting.” 

 Yes, Nora.  The daughter Nora is also a writer, and when she comes home from college to visit her mother, she becomes enamored of Owen.  This marks the end of Owen’s writers’ block.

The above excerpt is a good example of the exquisite style of writing in ‘Life Drawing’.  It is Gus who is telling the story from her emotional perspective.  I found the story of the novel quite moving, and the novel held my interest throughout.

Alison, the mother, is also an artist.  So everyone is either a full-time artist or writer.  These people in ‘Life Drawing’ fly in different circles than most of the people I know who must work a job for a living.   I suppose that is one of the problems in the United States.  The only people who can afford to be artists or writers are people who have never had to struggle with a job to live.

However that is beside the point.  The point is that ‘Life Drawing’ is a strong well-written novel about the continuing effects of an affair on a long-term relationship.  There is also an astonishing conclusion.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Tony, I read Robin Black’s collection of short stories a few years ago and loved it. Sounds like an awkward triangle here to say the least, and the kind(s) of thing that happen (ugh ugh). Maybe the used price will come down soon and I’ll treat myself to a copy.


    • Hi Kat,
      ‘Life Drawing’ has gotten several good reviews which is why I read it in the first place. In a way I’m nostalgic for the old bookstore business where a book could build up momentum over time. It is disgusting that Amazon controls just about the entire book business just because they have the Kindle. Other book publishers and book retailers including book stores should be allowed to sell their books directly in Kindle format at the very least. Until then we are stuck with an unfair illegal monopoly which hurts everyone in the book business.


      • Thank you so much for this! And believe you me, we authors have our own issues about pricing! Meanwhile though, I’m so appreciative of readers! Especially those who tell others. Thank you!


        • Hi Robin,
          To hear from the real Robin Black after reading her novel is quite a pleasure. I really enjoyed ‘Life Drawing’ and wish it all the success in the world.
          I may have gotten a little carried away with my prole attitude toward the end of my post, as I know it is difficult for most authors to get by in a streaming world. Thanks for stopping by.


  2. This looks like a good one, Tony. I love the way you talk about books. That last sentence is so good to know.


    • Hi Charlotte,
      I try to react to a book as it has affected me. Sometimes that means imitating the style of the book in my reviews. ‘Life Drawings’ is a keeper. Thanks for stopping by again.


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