Forest Lover

Vreeland, Susan. The Forest Lover.New York: Penguin Audio, 2004.

Disclaimer: This was another audio book I was fully prepared to listen to on the plane to (or from) Hawaii. I had no idea that The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim would take up some considerable time. So, this is a June book…in July. I’m not going to cry about it.

Right off the bat I have to say this is one of my favorite books for July. Susan Vreeland takes the real life character of Canadian artist Emily Carr and, while fictionalizing dialogue and relationships, does an amazing job portraying the factual history and Native American culture surrounding Carr’s life.  Art, culture and society are the three elements of importance in The Forest Lover.

Art was the vehicle Emily Carr chose in order to communicate with the world around her. She was fascinated with color and emotion and desperately wanted her art to say something through these characteristics. Whether they are Vreeland’s words or Carr’s the descriptions of the art of the time (1912 – Monet, Van Gogh, Carr herself) fairly dance off the page. Images come to life through the passion used to describe them. Early in The Forest Lover Carr was fixated on the totems of the Vancouver Island natives. She sought desperately to convey their spiritual power on the canvas so much so that she traveled to Paris with her sister to learn more about capturing color in just the right way. Being able to communicate and show passion through art excited her.
Along the way Carr was confronted with cultural differences between herself (being a white woman) and the tribes of natives she needed to befriend in order to paint their totems. Vreeland goes into deep character development for one Squamish friend, basket maker Sophie. This character development allows Vreeland to illustrate not only how crucial it was for Carr to develop a trust with the different tribes but to say something about Carr’s soothing personality and her ability to connect with people. She could put even the native most distrustful of the white man at ease.
The third and probably most important element to The Forest Lover is Emily Carr’s reaction to Victorian society through her fighting spirit. In addition to having a strong passion for art and the ability to befriend any culture Carr had a devil-may-care feminist approach to confines of her day. For example, during the early 1900s it was unbecoming for a woman to travel alone. While she took her sister as a traveling companion to France Carr was not necessarily worried about what the neighbors might think. She remained true to her spunky attitudes and rarely let anything or anyone intimidate her (although she did seem to have a weird hangup concerning intimacy). Vreeland’s writing style in The Forest Lover has made me a fan.

Author Fact: Susan Vreeland also wrote the more popular Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

Book Trivia: I think this should be a movie…if it isn’t already.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Inside the Inside Passage” (p 106).


2 Comments on “Forest Lover”

  1. SandySays1 says:

    A really well written review, intelligently organized, and provides the info to make the “Will I read this?” decision.

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