A Line Made By Walking by Sara Baume

I was hesitant to start this knowing it was the last of Sara Baume’s books I had on my shelf to read. I find her work so nourishing and unique, she’s quickly become one of my favourite authors. So what joy, part way through reading this, to learn there is a novel due out in Apr 2022, Seven Steeples.

Navigating the In-Between

Irish literary fiction Visual ArtistA Line Made By Walking takes place over one summer when 26 year old Frankie quits her Dublin bedsit and returns briefly to her parent’s home, before deciding to move temporarily into her grandmother’s slightly decrepit cottage that has long been on the market, since her death over a year ago.

It is a place where she can wallow and wait out a period of depression, create something meaningful, take walks, cycle and test herself on works of art. Her art school days are over, but finding meaning through artistic expression, looking for and noticing it around her, remains important, necessary.

“Why must I test myself? Because no one else will, not any more. Now that I am no longer a student of any kind, I must take responsibility for the furniture inside my head. I must slide new drawers into chests and attach new rollers to armchairs. I must maintain the old highboys and sideboards and whatnots. Polish, patch, dust, buff. And, from scratch, I must build new frames and appendages; I must fill the drawers and roll along.”

Art Creates Structure

Each chapter is titled with a different roadkill or animal species (not living) she has encountered nearby. Everything in the vicinity, plus her stream of consciousness thoughts, link together to create a seamless narrative, like the ripples of a stream bubbling over stones, moving around obstacles. Separate but part of something whole.

Sara Baume Irish literature Bicycle Cycling Ireland

Photo by Bogdan R. Anton on Pexels.com

Though she is not herself at this time, Frankie creates purpose in each day, and while not under observation, makes slow progress. Her mother worries, but allows her the freedom she needs. She resists conventional treatment and takes quiet charge of her own healing.

My parents did not want me to come here to stay. They are, like everybody, fearful of being completely alone and suspicious of people who choose to be. They hesitate, like everybody, to understand how it could heal me, as I believe it can. I believe: I am less fearful of being alone than I am of not being alone.

She fixes the bicycle in the shed and establishes a routine and purpose, an affirmation of the natural order of things, that all life passes. Her grandmother, the dog, a robin, rabbit, rat, mouse, rook, fox, frog, hare, hedgehog and badger. Her photographs grace each chapter.

“Here is another rule for my project: no pets, only wild things. So it can be about the immense poignancy of how, in the course of ordinary life, we only get to look closely at the sublime once it has dropped to the ditch, once the maggots have already arrived at work.”

Artwork Word Association

Though it possesses the barest of plots, I loved it’s meandering style and waymarker structure through an incredible recollection of over seventy art installations, like rabbit holes the reader can burrow into, something Baume encourages us to do.

I urge readers to seek out, perceive and interpret these artworks for themselves.

A Line Made By Walking Sara BaumeThe line made by walking crops up three or four times in the novel, in reference to artworks, the first time in Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows (1890) and represents the division between the field and sky, the sadness inherent in life. It was his final painting.

Having left the city behind, the narrative is as much immersed in the observations of nature around her, in the discoveries to be made on a walk, a cycle, a drive, a visit somewhere; her poetic voice making even the mundane mesmerising.

Again, the novel reads for me, as if the author is speaking, I forget there is a fictional protagonist, after reading her nonfiction Handiwork and listening to Sara Baume talk about her own art making projects, her presence is always there, lurking within the brush strokes of her characters.

Absolutely loved it.

Further Reading/Listening

Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain : “An artist, first and foremost”. An Interview with Sara Baume by Margarita Estévez-Saá

Guardian Interview: Sara Baume: ‘I always wanted to be an art monster’ Feb 2017, Alex Clark

Sara Baume, Author, Visual Artist

Sara Baume Irish AuthorSara Baume, born in 1984, was raised and now lives in County Cork, after having studied Fine Art at Dun Laoghaire College of Art, and Design and Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin.

Her fiction and criticism have been published in anthologies, newspapers and journals such as Irish Times, the Guardian, the Stinging Fly and Granta.

She has published two critically acclaimed novels, spill simmer falter wither (2015) winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and A Line Made by Walking (2017) shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and a work of creative nonfiction Handiwork (2020).

“Baume’s protagonists in both her novels and short stories are solitary people, misfits of our society, mostly representatives of those human beings who find it difficult to adapt themselves to contemporary standards and conventions and who look for different ways of living or rather try to establish alternative communities of life.”

Pre-Order Seven Steeples

If you are interested in the forthcoming novel, it’s available to pre-order as a Limited Edition here

It is a novel about a couple that pushes against traditional expectations, moving with their dogs to the Irish countryside where they embed themselves in nature and make attempts to disappear from society.

Seven Steeples Sara Baume

14 thoughts on “A Line Made By Walking by Sara Baume

  1. I tried with this, I really did. But my eyes wandered off the page, I couldn’t focus on what was being written, and finally, I abandoned the attempt. I can’t remember the detail of the experience … just …. that it wasn’t for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess you just have to be in the mood for it, because though there is a pattern to it, it is a little thin on plot and very introspective. Have you tried her nonfiction Handiwork? It’s a very short work, but it makes reading her fiction make more sense I think.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Once I’ve abandoned, I rarely go back, to be honest. Most people I follow read her novel before her nonfiction, I think the fact that the very first work I ever read of Sara Baume was her mini creative nonfiction title, set me up for the experience of what her novels are like, a kind of auto-fiction.

          Liked by 1 person

    • If you have Handiwork on that TBR I’d recommend starting there, as it well informs the reader in terms of what to expect from her fiction.

      I think you would enjoy this one, especially the rich, meandering side journey of looking up some of the intriguing artworks that are encountered throughout.

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  2. So glad to hear about this book. I read Spill,Simmer Falter Wither, and have definitely meant to read more by this author. I love the sound of the healing nature of this narrative, the cottage and the natural world.

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    • Although it’s set over one summer, I think it’s perfect for an autumn, winter read, a little bit of nature, of perspective on art, the cottage with its memories of times past and indeed the natural world that reminds us of the cycles of life and seasons.

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  3. Claire, having read and loved Baume’s ‘Spill Simmer Falter Wither’, I can’t wait to read this one. The urge is intensified by the news that her next novel is due in April. I deeply love Baume’s writing, intelligence, and sensibility. Her artistic eyes which observe the slow moments of life are precious. What you mentioned about leaving the plot behind and meandering reminded me of Anuk Arudpragasam. His second book, ‘A Passage North’ seems to be receiving brickbats for the very reason. In contrary, I adore the book for the same reason. Anuk has no interest in adhering to the storytelling conventions. He resists, and without saying, he says that stories can be told in many ways, and I am, usually, in awe of writers who make such bold choices to do justice to their creative spirit. I will certainly read ‘A Line Made By Walking’. Thank you, Claire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I remember talking about ‘Spill Simmer Falther Wither’ with you and the seasons revelation I had, which makes it so much easier to never forget the title. What a joy that novel was and now this! PLeasl also add Handiwork to your TBR Deepika and the fact that you mention Anuk Arudpragasam in the same comment just confirms what I thought from the moment I read of his debut and then this latest novel, that he could well be my kind of reflective writer. I do understand why it is not every reader’s cup of tea though. Thank you for your endearing and thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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