Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: "Life Drawing" by Robin Black

I felt the need as I wind down this reading cycle for the first half of 2017 to sandwich a small book in between two large ones, and Robin Black’s debut novel Life Drawing, placed in between Dan Simmon’s Carrion Comfort and Thomas Pynchon’s daunting Gravity’s Rainbow is the perfect book that acted as a good breather in between two longer works. I described this relationship drama as harmless but fun, and after finishing it, I still say that is a fair assessment. This book doesn’t break new ground and it is almost proud of its familiarity: it is straightforward, like a second or maybe even third rate Richard Yates or Richard Ford novel, but it does its familiar trick so well that it is easy to glide along its pages as if it were a thin sheet of ice, and by the end, which was a bit shocking, you aren’t changed or really even moved, but you are sure you had fun. It begins with Augusta Edelman, or Gus, recounting her life just after her husband’s death. The book focuses what led up to this event. Her and Owen, her husband, have moved out to the country to try to get away from a few past misdeeds and emotional shakeups and start anew, focusing on their creative endeavors (she paints, he writes). But old wounds are opened when Alison moves across from them, and brings with her a heap of baggage and a fanatical daughter. I will keep the details of the betrayal and what eventually takes place a secret, but it is an easy one to find out. The beats this story makes are rather transparent and even with the shocking conclusions it failed to surprise me. But luckily this book never exceeds its reach and thinks it’s something it’s not. I may not recall much as time goes on, but for right now, this book was a passable pleasure to read. 
Rating: 5/5

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