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Review: The Art of Leaving (Anna Stothard)


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Summary (From AlmaBooks.com)

A haunting story about saying goodbye – showing that even freedom may have its cost after all

Leaving comes naturally to Eva Elliott: she spent her childhood abandoning schools and cities. Now she enjoys the thrill of saying goodbye much more than the butterflies of a first smile or kiss. There’s so much more potential in walking away, and Eva has a dangerously vivid imagination.

During a rainy summer in London, where Eva lives in a rackety Soho flat with her boyfriend, she dreams of exit strategies. She becomes fascinated by a golden eagle who has escaped the Zoo to roam the city, and thinks up stories about the ghostly figure of a girl who lurks in the window of a strip club opposite her office. When a beguiling stranger called Grace turns up in Eva’s life armed with a conspiratorial smile and an unsettling secret, Eva is left unsure what is in her head and what is reality.

Author: Anna Stothard
Length: 288 pages
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★
Readability: ★★★
Overall: ★★

My opinion:

The Art of Leaving follows Eva Elliott, the daughter of a pilot and and serial abandoner.  Introverted and flighty, Eva’s favourite moments are the endings – the final scene of a film, the last words of a dying character and the end of a romance.  For Eva, these moments hold far more meaning and excitement, filled with possibilities offering so many more choices.

Despite Eva’s determination to keep leaving things, her relationship with Luke endures, lasting significantly longer than any of her other relationships.  Although she’s tried to leave him in the past, it’s never quite worked out and Eva begins to realise that leaving just isn’t as easy as it used to be.  The novel also follows the plight of an escaped eagle from London Zoo, and Eva’s her musings on the mysterious Scorpio Club over the road from her office.  Inspired by a story told to her by her Grandmother, Eva imagines magician’s assistants, escaped rabbits and tangled secrets, drawn in until she is unsure what exactly is real and what is part of her imagination.

Stothard manages to bring rainy London to life, rich with description and colour, where it could so easily have been bleak.  The writing is hugely atmospheric; from Regent’s Park to Eva’s Office, the settings reach out and draw you in.  The Scorpio Club in particular is hypnotising, vaguely reminiscent of something from a (more) sinister version of The Prestige.

However, despite Stothard’s fantastic writing, I didn’t love The Art of Leaving – perhaps because I found it difficult to connect with Eva.  Her nomadic, distant approach to life is obviously necessary for the book, but I just found it hard to like her.  I couldn’t help sympathising with Luke, and the plot was just a little looser than I would have liked.  Similar in feel to something like Life of Pi, the plot felt too loose to me – more contemplative than action-packed.

For a book so clearly about endings, I found the novel’s conclusion to be lacking. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have any real impact – a month after finishing the book I couldn’t remember how it ended!

I would strongly recommend this for readers who love a book to make them think and for anyone looking for beautiful prose.  I can easily imagine this being a huge hit, but the plot was just too open for me.

Buy it? A borrow for me.
In a nutshell: Beautiful writing and an easy read, worth a go.

You can read an excerpt from The Art of Leaving on Alma Books’ website

Other Reviews of The Art of Leaving: For Books’ Sake | The Book Bag | Bookshelf Butterfly

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