Book Review – THE ART OF LEAVING by Anna Stothard

The Art of Leaving Synopsis

The Art of Leaving by Anna StothardLeaving has always come naturally to Eva Elliott. The daughter of a pilot, she spent her childhood leaving schools and cities. Now an adult, she enjoys the thrill of saying goodbye much more than the butterflies of a first smile or kiss. There’s so much more potential in walking away, and Eva has always had a dangerously vivid imagination.

During a rainy summer in Soho, when a golden eagle escapes London Zoo to prowl the city and a beguiling stranger begins appearing around town armed with a conspiratorial smile and a secret, Eva discovers that endings just aren’t as easy as they used to be. Is it a flirtation playing out amongst the crumbling offices, clubs and alleys of Soho, or something much darker? The line blurs in this haunting story about saying goodbye… (Booktopia)


The Art of Leaving by Anna Stothard, is an enigmatic novel. Its beautiful prose clearly comes from a mind with a deep and genuine appreciation for the individuality of people and places – someone who sees additional detail and merit in the seemingly mundane. Despite this, the overall mood of this story is one of intense melancholy and detachment.

Protagonist and narrator, Eva Elliot, has an unusual and intriguing preoccupation with departures – from people and places.

Before Luke, she’d considered herself talented at leaving people and places. The first smile of a love affair was mostly fiction and blind hope, but you knew where you were with goodbye: you knew that mistakes would dissolve, doors would open, and then everything would be possible again. Even while loving Luke – while actually experiencing the emotion of love – she often caught herself considering their eventual parting. It was the ending, Eva maintained, that gave meaning to a story.

Eva’s narrative viewpoint often morphs into day dream passages, about past break ups, her childhood or colourful imaginings about the lives of strangers she routinely sees. In some instances, these day dreams are enchanting; in others they display an immense sadness and sometimes paranoia.

I really wanted to like (or at least identify with) Eva, but unfortunately she frustrated me at times. I predominantly felt sadness for her, rather than with her. For a self-proclaimed independent spirit I expected a little more proactive behaviour (good or bad) – although perhaps that is the point, the extent to which Eva lacks genuine self-awareness?

I also think having a lead character whose detachment from their own life is so pronounced makes the author’s job of sustaining compelling tension and engagement with their audience that much more challenging. The plot did involve a few interesting mysteries about the ensemble cast, but The Art of Leaving is very much a character driven novel and a subtle one at that.

The real value in The Art of Leaving for me was the beauty of Anna Stothard’s descriptive passages. For example Eva’s fascination with the plight of a golden eagle that escaped from the zoo yielded many poignant and artistic moments.

The Art of Leaving was published in Australia and the UK on 28 March 2013, and is set for release in the US on 23 April 2013.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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BOOK DETAILS: The Art of Leaving (Booktopia);  The Art of Leaving (Kobobooks)

Genre: Romance, Drama, Mystery

Author Information: Anna Stothard lived in Los Angeles for two years, studying at the American Film Institute, before returning to London. She has written weekly columns in The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph, as well as articles in other newspapers. Her first novel, Isabel and Rocco, was published in 2004, followed by The Pink Hotel in 2011, which was long listed for the Orange and has been translated all over the world. Film rights for The Pink Hotel have been bought by Anna Paquin. She has recently moved from London to Berlin.

– Checkout Anna Stothard’s website (including blog)

– Read Anna’s self-interview (Q&A) on The Art of Leaving

Other reviews of The Art of Leaving: For Book’s Sake; Life Between Pages; The Bookbag

* Receiving this title free from Bloomsbury Australia did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions in the review above.