Friday, 3 March 2017

A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume

review by Maryom

Frankie has reached crisis point. After finishing her art degree, she's got a temporary part-time job at a gallery, but fails to find a connection between what she's studied for so long and the adult world of work and bed-sits that she's now part of. She feels isolated, lost, and without purpose. One day, everything just proves too overwhelming so she does what she always does - phones her mum who understands without questioning and is ready to come to the rescue. Frankie is too old though to return to her childhood home and be 'mothered', so she persuades her parents to allow her to live in the old bungalow left empty since her grandmother's death three years before. There she tries to form a structure to her life - cycling, small shopping trips, a new art project, befriending her neighbour -  but she's still in a limbo-like state, and her future looks increasingly uncertain.

This second novel from Sara Baume again focuses on an outsider; Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither told the story of an elderly man and his equally outcast dog; this time the main character is a young woman, unable to move on from a childhood where everything was safe, secure and mapped out for her, to an uncertain, uncharted future. Frankie's dreamed of becoming an artist but now she's trained and should be heading out into the world to achieve this, she feels wrong-footed and at sea. Her thoughts (which I think all of us have shared on some point or other) are filled with a hankering after that simpler time of childhood, before adult realities - work, money and death - impacted on her, and she hopes, in retreating to her grandmother's bungalow, to regain that feeling of safety and well-being. She's still deeply troubled though and contentment seems hard to come by. Her thoughts continue to circle round death and decay, with her new art project focusing on dead creatures she finds by the roadside, and she's constantly testing her knowledge by recalling pieces of art and trying to find a relationship between them and the 'real' world.

The writing is beautiful but somewhat fragmentary, reflecting Frankie's disordered thoughts which flit from one subject to another, never staying anywhere for long, but it builds into an intimate account of someone gripped by depression, struggling against its pull, trying one step at a time to walk out of its depths, until those individual steps form a line. Emotionally and mentally it's a cautious, hesitant path though it's only looking back that I realise how much I was willing Frankie to stay on it, and how emotionally involved I'd become.

It's another truly remarkable read from Sara Baume, and marks her as a writer to watch out for.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - William Heinemann
Genre - Adult fiction, depression, 

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