Frankie decides to move into her deceased grandmother’s old house after having a breakdown in the city. A Line Made by Walking features a different creature in each chapter and we get to see Frankie’s observations of them as she allows us into her world. Frankie feels her small world is coming apart in stages and feels it is fitting that the creatures are also dying.
She picks out different artworks throughout the book relating to various subject matters, with the idea being to test herself now that she is not a student anymore. She wants to have things in common with artists so she feels she can be like them. The descriptions of the artworks are Frankie’s memories and interpretations of them. She is 25 and knows she is still young but ‘already so improper, so disordered’.
She is alone in her grandmother’s bungalow on ‘turbine hill’, described as this as it is close to a wind turbine, something said to be offputting for potential buyers. She believes being alone can heal her but has realised other people are afraid of being alone. Her sense of despair really comes across throughout the book, with everyday tasks proving to be a struggle and attempts to read a book see her unable to remember characters and get the story straight in her head afterwards.
Frankie gets herself into several scrapes, including an awful situation on a bus and a scene in a hairdressers where her tone would not have been generally been deemed to be socially acceptable. Your heart really goes out to her as we are given a real sense of who she is and why she is behaving the way she does.
The descriptions in the book are outstanding, with beautiful images and ideas about nature. Memory features throughout, with Frankie going right back to her troubled childhood. We learn of the ‘I want to go home’ that she has chanted in her head since as far as she can remember, chanted during bad days at school but also at times when she should’ve been content or enjoying herself. She recalls her pets and tries to remember the voice of her grandmother.
Her mother is clearly a solid figure throughout her life and there is clearly a great understanding between them. Her mother comments about Frankie’s bones and Frankie wonders where so much has gone so effortlessly. She has tried so hard to be thin in the past but now mourns the loss of time that could’ve been spent taking in knowledge and ideas rather than a body she never liked to begin with. This is the sort of interior insight we could throughout the book and Baume handles this extremely well.
A Line Made By Walking is a strikingly real book that examines life, death, nature and art. There is a strong air of sadness throughout and a real sense of the beauty and fragility of the world and its inhabitants.