I didn't discover The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland in any organized or well-researched way. I was visiting my mother, we ran to Wal*Mart for diaper rash cream, and by the cash register a pile of Discount Books beckoned from a table.
As any bookaholic knows, a pile of books is utterly irresistable. I waded and dug through the pile, growing discouraged, until I saw Susan Vreeland's name.
I had read her Girl in Hyacinth Blue and found it original, albeit a bit pale compared to the lush story by Tracy Chevalier that I read at about the same time (Girl with a Pearl Earring for the record). It was sort of an Allende to Garcia Marquez. Allende grew on me, so I thought, let's give Vreeland another chance. I had liked her other book, after all.
I'm glad I did.
The Forest Lover is absolutely brilliant.
It's about Emily Carr, "one of Canada's greatest and most loved artists. Feeling a spiritual connection with her subjects, Emily Carr painted both the landscape and native villages of Western Canada in a unique and modern style that was rejected during its time of production. After years of travel throughout the forests of British Columbia, failing health caused her to remain close to home where she wrote seven books based on her life. Today Emily Carr is highly regarded throughout the world and considered a national icon in Canada. Through reading her books and the study of her paintings ( in poster form, or original ) one is able to grasp just how incredible this woman was."
Vreeland captures the character, the emotion, and the art fantastically well. I can easily see each piece of art and scenery. I won't wax on reviewer-style too much. I'll simply say this is a well-written book, with excellent characterization and scenery and I love love love that it is about an artist. I can completely relate to the character. Her struggles as a liberal and liberated person are also riveting, and challenging while appealing.
Read the book.
There is a Web site for the gallery she created that has lots of interesting bits about her, and her vision. There is also a Web site about her that has some nice examples of her art, and information about her.
She's amazing. Vreeland's book has motivated me to go out and learn more, read more about Emily Carr, particularly the books she wrote. I think that means Vreeland succeeded well with her book.
By Julie Pippert
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