by Clare Scopes
Drawing The Line introduces us to Maggie Goodwin, a forthright but somewhat naïve young woman who is determined to become the first lady-animator at Harley Studios, Los Angeles. However, this is 1938 and she is relegated to the Paint and Ink department along with the rest of the women. But Harley Studios is not the avuncular working environment Maggie believes it is and dissension is stirring among the employees…
Drawing The Line is an unusual little book which I found to be an entertaining read. It’s neatly structured, efficiently plotted and cleverly uses Maggie’s unsophistication to involve the reader at a deeper level than first appears. The prose has, to use a phrase from the novel, ‘the flow of a jaunty stream’ and it makes for an engaging read although, at the beginning of some chapters, I found the wording a little clunky and, in places, there were a few loose connections in the narrative However, the reader is fully immersed into 1930s studio life without it feeling cliched. The level of research and subtle period detailing helps really nail the atmosphere which, fittingly, has a visual quality. Ms Scopes’ has a real knack for writing dialogue, it was very well-written and authentic. Characterisations are, on the whole, spot on and again, nuanced enough not to be hackneyed. It would be easy for Milton Harley, the Studio boss, and his paramour Clara, to be complete caricatures but they are not and there was a slightly desperate air to both of them which humanised their relationship. Maggie, I did find both frustrating and irritating in places. She is forever making blunders, crass remarks and indulging in pretty cringe-inducing behaviour and, more often than not, completely misses the point which as mentioned above, is where the reader begins to operate at a different level. For all the frothy comedy of Drawing The Line, there is a darker underside which begins to swirl around Maggie and her childlike curiosity and of which the reader becomes aware. The novel offers up a social commentary of the day but also rather depressingly taps into a contemporary zeitgeist concerning equal rights that is quite thought-provoking.
Drawing The Line is a charming and more complex read than the enjoyably light-hearted prose belies. Highly recommended.