The class meets once a week to draw the human figure. For four of its members, life hasn’t lived up to expectations. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They gradually come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to a different and unimagined future.
Life class opens on Christmas Eve with a boy in hospital. I wanted to know what had happened? Who is the man in the car outside?
The previous September, Dory had moved into a rented maisonette. Her sister Fran has persuaded her to study art at the life class.
Art teacher Stefan Novak is a teacher who is battling against prejudices in relation to this group of people attending the life class. Used to their old tutor and signing on at the end of the summer term, they’re shocked to find they will have to follow a curriculum that could lead to a qualification to enable them to go further with a degree (instead of the unstructured lessons they are used to). Regulars in this class, they have no desire for anything other than using the medium they want and not that prescribed by Stefan. Stefan hadn’t envisioned this life for himself.
Dominic’s life has changed since he met Stefan. He should be in school but isn’t. He has a wad of money … what did he do to receive that amount of cash?
Fran is younger than her husband Peter and with him taking early retirement, she’s suffocating …
Dora has left a long-term partnership and business behind in London and is on the look-out for a new path in life.
Once our four main characters are in place, we journey with them through trauma and change as they face their own fears. The life class is a place where they all come together but their stories also unfold away from the classes.
I enjoyed the sibling relationship between Dora and Fran. Childhood perceptions and adult guilt play a subtle part underweaving their closeness. Fran is quite militant in her belief and advocacy in the causes she supports, which does cause friction between them. I thought it was great how the author created a childhood experience that had significance in Dora’s present life.
The art itself was really enjoyable. I love to look at life from different perceptions (rather than my usual narrow-mindedness!) and Stefan’s instructions, to get the class to look away from the surface and to experiment with different mediums, could also apply to life! It is obvious that the author knows her art in all its shades.
The part of the story that caused me the most intrigue was Dominic and where he fitted in. A teenaged boy who obviously had some awful role models during early childhood but what was his relationship with Stefan? Son? Lover?
Allan deals with sexual health, fertility, dysfunctional families, fostering and internet stalking with realism but sensitivity.
I’ve enjoyed being a part of these characters lives as they deal with their insecurities and etch a life for themselves.
I would like to thank the author for providing an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.