Moorefield House Publishing
|Posted on August 28, 2017 at 8:05 AM|
A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume
Reviewed by Jacob Hammer
Sara Baume presents in her second novel a book that gives its readers a personal look
deep into its narrator’s life. This, on its own, would not distinguish it from any number of
novels out there on the shelf. What Baume does that sets this novel apart is to give us this
perspective while weaving in multiple back stories seamlessly and providing us with a wealth
of art knowledge.
The novel begins with the narrator musing on her Grandmother’s death and the more
recent death of a robin. She has moved into her Grandmother’s cottage after a near
breakdown in her flat in Dublin and is full of all sorts of emotional turmoil and self-doubt.
The cottage provides shelter from some of those stresses. The dead robin is the first in an
emerging series of photographs that she is taking of dead things. Each one of these ten
animals that she finds in the countryside and garden surrounding the cottage is an opening
through which the narrator explores herself. Sometimes the animal will make her reflect on
her early childhood or on more recent events. Further paths down memory lane are cleared
via various items of her Grandmother’s that remain in the house after the rest of the family
has gone through to get the things they find precious or useful. From these we begin to create
an image of Frankie’s past and how she ended up at her Grandmother’s cottage cutting
herself off from the world and taking pictures of dead things by the side of the road. With her
we begin to see the fog of the recent past clearing and a way onward emerge.
One thing that made this book really striking was Frankie’s constant references to art.
She is an artist and studied art in university so as she ponders things over she tests herself on
works of art relating to whatever it is she is thinking about at that moment. These pop up
throughout the book. And allow for even more insight into how she is feeling or what she is
thinking based in her interpretation of the work and the works that she chooses to mention.
On top of that, the author includes a detailed list at the back of the book that lists every art
piece mentioned by chapter to encourage further investigation by the reader.
Another striking feature in the novel is its unconventional pacing. As one moves
along through the novel there are frequent pauses indicated by extra space. This indicated a
passage of time that can sometimes be very brief or sometimes signal that a memory
sequence is starting. The space created and the anticipation of a shift ahead help the reader to
reflect on what they have just read and hold it in their mind almost like the photographs that
Frankie takes or the works of art that she mentions. We hold each moment separate, but are
also reminded by those parts of the mind trying to align things linearly that there are multiple
stories all being told at once to create this whole.
I enjoyed this book because it made me think about the how we hold memories and
how they are cued by the things around us in a constant stream. I enjoyed it because of the
intriguing art references that enticed me to learn more. Most importantly, I enjoyed this book
because I wanted to know more about Frankie. I wanted to learn how she would emerge from
the funk that she was under and to know how she came to be an artist questioning her ability
living in her Grandmother’s former cottage and passing the days riding a bicycle through the
Irish countryside and taking photographs of dead animals. A great read and something I
would happily recommend.