It is so easy to dislike all of the characters involved in Life Drawing. They are all flawed, self-involved, and focused on the wrong things. Gus and Owen have some very nontraditional ideas about relationships that may or may not be the root of their problems depending on how one interprets their actions. Alison has obvious issues, making Gus’ confessional involvement with her questionable. As for Nora, she may or may not be exactly what Gus considers her to be. The danger is discerning Gus’ very strong opinions and preventing them from influencing one’s own awareness of the story and its characters. Yet, this emotional involvement and Gus’ obvious bias towards Nora and by extension Alison pique a reader’s interest. One wants to know how their story intersects to create such strong emotion.
In addition, knowing how Gus and Owen’s story ends creates an unspoken tension that fuels a reader’s engagement in the story. It is not so much a need to play detective as a need to know how it all develops. Gus reveals very few clues but her pain is obvious, serving to heighten the suspense and sense of doom that permeates the story.
Life Drawing is truly a gorgeous novel. The writing is outstanding. Intense, emotionally wrought, and with an attention to detail that rivals Gus’ own, Ms. Black makes readers become part of the story. The reader will feel emotionally invested in the unfolding drama not only because the reader knows exactly how it is going to end based on the first sentence of the novel but also because one cannot help become swept up in the emotional roller coaster.