Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland

A few years ago on a trip to Toronto I saw an exhibit of Canadian art. One of the paintings that made the biggest impression on me was this one, by Emily Carr, who painted in the early part of the 20th century, mostly on the west coast of Canada. Wikipedia describes her as “most heavily influenced by the landscape and First Nations cultures of British Columbia and Alaska.” I just loved this painting and the others of hers that I saw. (I borrowed this photo from the Art Gallery of Ontario Web site.)

The Forest Lover is Susan Vreeland’s fictionalized account of Emily Carr’s life, or at least that part of her life that was most productive, from her early thirties through her fifties. Vreeland does a good job of describing Carr’s frustrations and obstacles, which were legion: not enough money, a lack of emotional support from her family, personal loneliness, the barriers against travel for women, and the oppression and denigration of the indigenous cultures that she found so interesting.

While this sounds good when I describe it, I found Vreeland’s narrative to be dull and repetitive. At times she reduced Carr’s story to a hard-to-believe romance with a fur trader and endless bickering with her sisters. Vreeland’s approach didn’t live up to the story she was telling; in the end this was a disappointment. (But it did provide a map!)

(Book 2, 2009)


LINDA from Each Little World said...

Frankly, it would be hard to write a novel that could measure up to the strength of that painting. I know a little about that group of painters but your review convinces me Vreeland's novel is not the best way to learn more.

Anonymous said...

I do most of my reading while at the Gold’s gyms in Boston they make my work out easier, while keeping me entertained at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I hated The Forest Lover. I, too, thought it was dull dull dull.

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