Handiwork by Sara Baume – Book Review

Title: Handiwork

Author: Sara Baume

Genre/Themes: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Grief, The Creation of Art

Blurb from Goodreads

In this contemplative short narrative, artist and acclaimed writer Sara Baume charts the daily process of making and writing, exploring what it is to create and to live as an artist.

A short, elegant piece that encompasses images and is itself a significant artifact, handiwork will offer more of the beautiful prose and extraordinary versatility you’ve come to expect from Sara Baume.

My Review

I fell absolutely head over heels in love with Sara Baume’s writing in her first two novels, Spill Simmer Falter Wither, and A Line Made by Walking. But I was a little unsure as to how I’d fare with her short piece of non-fiction writing, Handiwork.

I need not have worried as once again she has shown what a master craftsmith of words she is.

Handiwork is a quiet and unassuming read. Its gentleness and intimate writing style draws you in to a cosy little cocoon where it’s just you and Baume’s words, nothing else matters.

“I have always felt caught between two languages, though I can only speak in one.

The one I can speak goes down on paper and into my laptop, in the hours before noon. The one I cannot speak goes down in small painted objects, in the hours after.”

It is a book about what it’s like to be an artist; as well as being a writer Baume is also a maker of physical artworks. She calls this her “handiwork”. In the book she describes the processes of crafting her pieces, and what it is that motivates her emotionally, physically, and in a way spiritually. I’m entirely lacking in any sort of original creativity. I have no aching desire to form something with my hands so this opportunity to read about the way the mind of an artist works was incredibly fascinating to read about. I frequently felt appalled by how she described the way her home is laid out and how her creativity is the thing that dictates the layout of her rooms etc… Appalled in the sense that her spaces were for creative working rather than the organised oasis in which I live. At least I think my home is an oasis; beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder but after reading this novel I’ve come to the conclusion that in no way could I live with an artist!

Intermingled with her thoughts about creating her art pieces she writes about the migration of birds. I know. Sounds kind of random… but it really works! She marries these insights into the migratory nature of birds with her thoughts on the artistic process in a way that’s difficult to describe. The two are delicately woven together by the emotion of grief. Because primarily that’s what this is about. Grief and loss. Finding how to live when you’ve lost someone you loved. In this instance Baume’s father.

However this isn’t a sad book in any way. There are no maudlin platitudes. No faux sentimentality. Instead there’s a quietness in the contemplative style of the writing. A catharsis for the author. But also acknowledgement that grief is ever there in its changing forms.

A beautiful book

Other Works by Sara Baume I’ve Reviewed

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