Similar to writer’s block, there are times when, as a reader, I seem to hit a wall. This happened recently; I half-heartedly began a number of books but, unable to feign my interest, discarded them within a few days. And for someone whose favourite past-time is reading, it can be hugely frustrating.
Luckily, I was to come across a rather special book that would not only coax me out of my reading slump, but that would restore my love of words and of books.
Robin Black’s debut novel, Life Drawing, is the story of Augustus and Owen who move to the country to leave behind the demons of city life. They buy a barn with the inheritance from an aunt of Owen’s and envisage themselves devoting their lives to each other and their art – Gus as a painter, Owen as a writer.
Life is quiet and uneventful until Alison Hemmings, a recently divorced mother of one moves into the neighbouring barn, which has remained desolate, until now. A bond between the two women forms and they soon become each other’s closest confidant; unearthing past secrets that are long since buried.
The arrival of Alison’s teenage daughter Nora – both pious and passionate – changes the dynamic of the three neighbours and causes a sequence of events to unfold that lead to the novel’s climatic ending.
Masterfully written with exquisite prose, Life Drawing is compelling to its very last page. Black creates a world of both love and sorrow that is so full of suspense it is almost tangible. So beautiful was Life Drawing that I had to slow my reading pace towards its end to savour every last page. It truly is the perfect debut.