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The Forest Lover

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3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,451 Ratings  ·  388 Reviews
In her acclaimed novels, Susan Vreeland has given us portraits of painting and life that are as dazzling as their artistic subjects. Now, in The Forest Lover, she traces the courageous life and career of Emily Carr, who?more than Georgia O?Keeffe or Frida Kahlo?blazed a path for modern women artists. Overcoming the confines of Victorian culture, Carr became a major force i ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy ChevalierThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeThe Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownThe Birth of Venus by Sarah DunantGirl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
Art & Artists in Fiction
33rd out of 529 books — 853 voters
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa GregoryCleopatra's Daughter by Michelle MoranThe White Queen by Philippa GregoryThe Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa GregoryThe Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
Remarkable Historical Women in Fiction
95th out of 282 books — 163 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cathy
Mar 04, 2009 Cathy rated it it was ok
I started this book several years ago, before I knew anything about Emily Carr, and couldn't finish it. Not knowing that many of the characters and situations were based on fact, I found it all too maudlin. Discouraged artist, downtrodden native cultures, stereotypes galore. It was like looking at a reflection, feeling that you're missing something critical, but not sure you really care. Since then, I've "discovered" Emily Carr and rank her among my favorite artists. Her paintings of northwest c ...more
Cynthia Neale
Jul 14, 2011 Cynthia Neale rated it it was amazing
Susan Vreeland is a glorious author and a favorite because I love historical fiction (and write it myself). To learn about various artists (or events or people in history) of the past through story deepens my understanding and delights me. This book is about Emily Carr who was a pioneer woman artist in the Pacific Northwest and who sought to overcome not only the prejudices of a woman artist traveling into untamed country, but to overcome the prejudices against the indigenous, native people and ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Jan 30, 2016 Elizabeth (Alaska) rated it really liked it
This is a biographical novel about the British Columbia artist Emily Carr. When I started this, I had never heard of Emily Carr. That is a loss now corrected. Vreeland takes some liberties about the life of Emily Carr: in the novel she has four older sisters, whereas in real life Emily was the second youngest of nine children; she says in the author afterward that some of the characters "are inventions. or derivations of actual people."

I don't think Vreeland exaggerated Carr's passion for her a
...more
Clarissa Simmens
Sep 09, 2014 Clarissa Simmens rated it it was amazing
Imagine painting with mosquitos thick as fur on your hands. Or standing in a deserted village of silence, surrounded by trees with ancient coffins splitting apart. Or staring up at 60-foot totem poles carved with Eagles, Ravens, Bears and Whales trying to communicate their message. Or being scrutinized by a 20-foot ogress—Dzunukwa—with nipples carved into Eagles’ heads with eyes and beaks. In The Forest Lover, Susan Vreeland gives us more than a biography of the painter Emily Carr. She gives us ...more
Rose
Sep 20, 2010 Rose rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
If being completely honest, I wasn't taken or impressed with "The Forest Lover" in the long haul, and much of the reason isn't because that Susan Vreeland wasn't a talented writer in some respects or even that Emily Carr's story isn't remotely interesting to hear. I was put off by the mundane portrayals, wandering/fragmented portrayal and the stereotypical coats that plagued this work. Really - this woman has a absolutely interesting life and it's presented in this way? I learned more about Emil ...more
Sunshine
Jan 11, 2008 Sunshine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-reads
This is my favorite Vreeland book! It was given to me by my boyfriend's Grandmother. She said it's a book worth passing on. She was right! Living in British Columbia, where Emily Carr found her love of painting, just makes this book even better! After reading this book, I went to the gallery to gawk at her paintings. This is one Canadian artist that everyone should know about. Vreeland does a wonderful job of creating Emily Carr. I only wish I could have known her!
Jgrace
The Forest Lover - Susan Vreeland
3 stars
Emily Carr was a post impressionist Canadian artist who died in 1945. Forest Lover is an uneven fictionalized biography of her life as a struggling female painter. I find the woman and her work to be fascinating, but this retelling of her life leaves much to be desired. The story begins with Emily as a grown woman trying to scratch a living as an artist. She teaches art to well-to-do ladies and their children, but is continually dissatisfied with the limit
...more
Paula
Jan 14, 2016 Paula rated it it was amazing
The Forest Lover is historical fiction by author Susan Vreeland about the life and paintings of Emily Carr. Emily was born in British Columbia to a well-to-do family but was not content to spend her days going to church and becoming a high society woman. At the age of 7, her father gave her a paint set and from then on painting was her passion, as was the British Columbia countryside and the indigenous people who lived there. Against her families wishes, Emily sets out into tribal villages to pa ...more
Linda O'Donnell F.
"Paintings are inspired by nature, true, but made in the artist's soul. That's why no two individuals see the same thing and express it alike.To attempt to reproduce France or Canada without filtering it through one's sensibilities is mere copy work, done by people worried over the number of leaves on a tree. Though they may have harmonized their colors, they have not plumbed for the feel." --- Emily Carr

And so Emily Carr answered her naysayers who critiqued her work. She was a woman far beyond
...more
Ron Charles
Jan 03, 2014 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels-about-art
Canadian painter Emily Carr once said, "Nobody could write my hodge-podge life but me." With self-effacing humor, she claimed that biographers couldn't "be bothered with the little drab nothings that have made up my life."

To Susan Vreeland, who's quickly become America's most popular biographer of famous artists, that must have sounded like an irresistible challenge. Her bestselling “Girl in Hyacinth Blue" followed the life of a single Vermeer painting from the 20th century back to its creation
...more
Joje
Apr 17, 2010 Joje rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Saskia, Claude
Recommended to Joje by: Nina, Keri
Quite a lot about the place and time is woven well into the fictionalized biography. The characters become real in the course of the action and preparing the setting, which does not always happen in this sort of biographical writing. A very upbeat read, too.
Citation that might give a feeling for the best and less best: "On the last night before Emily's return to Paris to collect her canvases and winter clothes, she and Frances lingered at the restaurant on the quay, sharing a tureen of mussels
...more
Kathy
Mar 26, 2011 Kathy rated it it was amazing
This was the book that inspired my interest in Emily Carr, a famous early 20th century artist from British Columbia, who traveled up the coast to paint the Native American villages and totem poles. She also painted dramatic scenes of old growth forest and depressing scenes of cut forest landscapes. Her painting evolved from representational to a more "Fauvist" style as she became acquainted with other artists, and her own sense of emotional connection with her subjects grew. This is a fictional ...more
Joyce
May 10, 2016 Joyce rated it really liked it
having read most of what's written about Emily Carr I did appreciate the way Susan Vreeland brought out the sensitivity of the artist regarding her relationships with her sisters. Other books stated the friction but Vreeland put it into dialogue which brought out Emily's own voice. She was in fact able to hold her own (given some periodic breaks of running away) against the rigid put downs of her straight laced siblings. I thought it sweet of the author to give Emily the elusive romance. In real ...more
Samantha Adkins
I am so glad this book came up in my book club. I'd never heard of it before. It is the fictionalized
account of Emily Carr's life, many of her travels and her paintings. As someone who has recently moved to her neck of the woods, I luxuriated in the author's descriptions of British Columbia.

I was also greatly impressed by the quality of Susan Vreeland's writing and research. I think it would be easy to get stuck in relaying the many facts of Carr's history, especially given the amount of writing
...more
Jennifer D
Jan 07, 2016 Jennifer D rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
so, maybe 2 -stars. i'm fairly torn over this book - i thought some of it was great, and i thought some of it was... really not great. i felt the social message of indigenous rights to be handled rather ham-fistedly and, at times, insensitively. there was a very child-like or immature feeling of emily carr that vreeland presented. while i wasn't particularly bothered over whether that was accurate or not, i was frustrated that this felt like a very loose thread, with not enough given to create a ...more
Jill
Jan 26, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
A Christmas gift from a dear friend, this book was a gift many times over. Vreeland writes, "How can we think that other things pressing in on our lives excuse us from gratitude?"Emily Carr, the Canadian artist, is visiting Harold, in a mental institution. They are looking at the dogwood blossoms outside. So much about her painting, her friendships with Sophie and Harold, her brief encounters with Claude du Bois, her courage, her willingness to take risks, her independence, her struggles of bein ...more
Rebecca
Nov 06, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because I wanted to learn more about Emily Carr. I did and I didn't. Susan Vreeland's writing style in The Forest Lover demonstrates what happens when a popular middlebrow author attempts to write what he or she thinks is "arty" prose: an artificial herky-jerky mess. Like E.L. Doctorow's treatment of the Collyer brothers in Homer and Langley, Vreeland changed many basic facts about the Canadian artist's life. This artifice is completely unnecessary. Yet again, a very real, very ...more
Scilla
Jun 10, 2009 Scilla rated it really liked it
This is a well written novel about the life of Emily Carr, a British Columbian painter in the early 1900's. The book was very moving. Emily loved the forests and the Indians of Bristish Columbia and painted many totem poles and Indian villages before the artifacts and the Indian cultures disappeared. She travelled to places where even white men hadn't gone, and was not accepted in the white society of the time and place. I liked having a map of the British Columbian coast in end pages. My major ...more
Debra
Emily Carr was a Canadian artist consumed by the art of the west coast First Nations, despite opposition from her family and the art establishment.

Ms Vreeland has a very interesting artist to profile in this novel, but the whole thing felt facile and without any deep examination. Usually one of her books leaves me with a sense of deeper understanding of what drove the artist. Not so here.

The only reason that I can say that I am glad to have listened to this book is that it drove me to look for C
...more
Estelle
I picked up this book in anticipation of seeing the Emily Carr exhibit at the AGO in Toronto. Although the writing itself is not inspiring, nonetheless, it has heightened my interest in seeing these paintings "in person." Despite her artistic training in England and France, she developed her own distinctive style. Though not in the famous Canadian Group of Seven, she shows an affinity with them and their love of the Canadian wilderness.
Pat Jennings
Jun 04, 2014 Pat Jennings rated it really liked it
Fictionalized account of American painter, Emily Carr, who studied in Paris, influenced by the impressionists, went on to paint and honor the tribes and traditions of the Northwestern native Americans. Emily Carr painted beautifully the verdant landscapes of British Columbia. It was not until she was into her fifties that she was recognized for her art. So glad to know more about the few women painters of early to mid 20th century.
Eleanor Cowan
Jul 20, 2014 Eleanor Cowan rated it really liked it
In her inspiring biography of Canadian artist Emily Carr, Susan Vreeland introduces us to a determined and self-directed young woman so immediately that a sense of friendship with this brave, gutsy and talented Canadian artist is formed. Emily's family life (I visited her family house in Victoria) was distressing, and yet, despite all of her disappointments, Emily sought her own happiness in her art.
Even during a long period when she had to rent rooms, cook meals for her roomers, and board dogs
...more
Jason
Jun 17, 2015 Jason rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
By chance I read an article about Native Canadian Tribes suing the Canadian government for past acts of 'Cultural Genocide,' right before I began to read THE FOREST LOVER, a fictional biographical novel that has at its heart the tragic destruction of Native Art and Culture by the White Christian juggernaut. The novel explores the life of real-life white Canadian artist, Emily Carr, as she becomes enamored with Native Art and attempts to preserve its 'essence' in her artistic interpretations befo ...more
Sue
Jun 30, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-history
Just before we left for a week-long cruise, I received word from my local library that two books I had requested were available for me. One was just so-so, and the other by Sue Monk Kidd The Invention of Wings kept me immersed from cover to cover. I searched for others that were available now, without a hold, and this one looked as though it might be interesting. And it was. It, too, kept me reading through its pages from cover to cover until I was done. Two books in two days, and barely a word ...more
Frances
Jul 23, 2013 Frances rated it did not like it
I really want to give it one star since it is a composite of all the things I despise about narrative versus substance in a "biography." Here is a book about a remarkable artist shrouded in imaginary conversations peopled with characters that may or may not have been part of her life. Why?
Carolyn
May 26, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating fictionalized biography of Emily Carr, a woman of the repressive Victorian era, who overcame the disapproval of her family and society at large to follow her passion of capturing the disappearing culture of the native tribes of British Columbia in art. In particular, she wanted to record the totem poles that were quickly disappearing even at that time, but even more, she worked to paint in a way that would provide the viewer with an emotional reaction to the subject. She st ...more
Kathie
Jul 15, 2015 Kathie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, canadian
This would be a 4 1/2 star book. Really enjoyed the story of painter Emily Carr and her life spent striving to distill the essence of her British Columbia surroundings in her art. I'll be hunting down more books about her....
Anna
Jun 13, 2016 Anna rated it liked it
This book was ok. I liked it but it isn't one of my all time favorites. I was really into the book and enjoyed it in the beginning because it was something new. I've never read a book about an artist before and wanted to read a little out of my typical genre though not much because it still was historical (realistic/biography) fiction. I lost my momentum of interest around the time Emily went to study art in Paris and then it started getting a little repetitive. Nothing really kept me reading be ...more
Sissy
so far, into the story and NOT that into the author's voice. maybe it will pick up....
update months later, i can't slog through this eventhough the story itself is compelling.
Carl
Mar 18, 2011 Carl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was our community read book for 2011. I enjoyed getting to know more about this very prominent Northwest/Canadian artist, but I did not enjoy Vreeland's telling.
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Susan Vreeland is an internationally renowned best-selling author and four-time winner of the Theodor Geisel Award for Fiction, the San Diego Book Award’s highest honor. She is known for writing historical fiction on art-related themes, including Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany. Her books have been translated into 26 languag ...more
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“She sat very still, listening to a stream gurgling, the breeze soughing through upper branches, the melodious kloo-klack of ravens, the nyeep-nyeep of nuthatches - all sounds chokingly beautiful. She felt she could hear the cool clean breath of growing things - fern fronds, maple leaves, white trillium petals, tree trunks, each in its rightful place.” 5 likes
“Think hard before you begin, then enter the work.” 3 likes
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