The Forest Lover
Based on the life of Emily Carr, The Forest Lover is a magnificent account of one woman’s determination to carry out her quest. At times this quest becomes submerged in self-doubt, and in the mores of early 20th century British Columbia. Emily asks herself whether she is painting the totem poles of BC’s northwest communities to preserve them for posterity―many are decaying in abandoned villages or have been plundered for museums―or to capture the spirit essential to powerful art. She travels to France to learn from post-Impressionist artists there, but missing her beloved British Columbia, returns to wander through the forests and villages of the northwest coast, winning the respect of the native people she encounters. Her family does not understand her, and her friends are mainly society’s outcasts. Vancouver and Victoria scorn her work, and it is not until much later in her life that she is recognized as one of Canada’s most talented artists.
Susan Vreeland clearly cares for her subject. Emotion leaps off the pages of this novel. She has achieved that sought-after gem: a book that is easy to read yet profoundly moving. This author takes research seriously, yet doesn’t allow facts to clog the story’s progression. She feels no need to show every detail of Emily Carr’s life, and instead focuses on the important ones. And she manages to project Emily’s own love for the wilderness that is still so much a part of British Columbia.