The Art of Leaving by Anna Stothard

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The Art of Leaving by Anna Stothard

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The fear of commitment versus the loneliness that goes by the name of freedom: an enigma and a romance for our time and beautifully told too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 300 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Alma Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846882371

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Luke's a barrister and Eva? She's a romantic novel editor and habitual leaver. Be it a party or a man, she's working on the exit strategy from the moment everything starts. This makes the fact that Eva and Luke have been together for three years a little abnormal in Eva world. The other abnormality in Eva world is the blonde woman she keeps spotting in random places, almost as if she's being spied upon…

If the name Anna Stothard rings a bell it could well be due to The Pink Hotel, her second novel with the quality that steered it onto the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012 long list. The Art of Leaving is gentler than The Pink Hotel's story of the bereaved teenager trying to get to know her mother retrospectively, but not without a bit of bite and a similar demonstration of talent.

As we may expect from the title, the entire novel is saturated by leavings. They're everywhere we look from the news headlines regarding an escaped eagle (a nice twist on the real life eagle, Goldie, who escaped London Zoo in the 1960s), through to a magician's rabbit, the suggestion of human trafficking, the books that Eva edits for a living and everything else in between. Life isn't like that? Maybe not to that extent but we're seeing life through Eva's eyes, a life full of goodbyes for which we gradually understand the reasoning. In flashback she takes us through each relationship break-up, her poignant childhood moving across the world as daughter of a pilot and fills us in on the initial history of life with the wonderfully patient Luke.

As the prospective lodger who got the landlady rather than the room, Luke is indeed special: hard working, caring and puts up with a lot. However as the story develops we see that he's as haunted and scarred by his childhood as Eva is by hers. I found myself siding with Luke whole-heartedly. Although I felt for Eva, my maternal genes wafted totally towards her bloke. He's not a saint by any means but Eva needs a good talking to! Indeed, this is the strength of Anna's story-telling. We don’t read from the side lines for long; we engage emotionally and make our own assumptions and opinions even though sometimes they may waiver or change.

Anna also has a wonderful pen for dialogue. The banter and in-jokes of an affectionate couple flow between Eva and Luke, reassuring us that they're in love even before Eva realises, evoking for we older readers a certain 10CC hit. Talking of love, Eva and Luke are juxtaposed against the relationship of their friends Grace and Justin. If Eva's way of coping with the ups and downs of a relationship is dreaming of the exit and Luke's is… you'll find out what Luke's is… Grace relies on a third way to blot out the bad stuff. No spoilers about Grace, but, remember I mentioned our opinions changing?

When it comes to the ending Anna is in a lose/lose situation as, whichever choice Eva makes, there are those who would have predicted it. In the end we're given a clever twist so, even if we had predicted correctly, it doesn't end in quite the way that I (at least) had thought. A bit like life really, ours as well as Eva's.

If this appeals to you then the chances are you'll also love the aforementioned The Pink Hotel.

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Buy The Art of Leaving by Anna Stothard at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Art of Leaving by Anna Stothard at


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