It's not often that I read a book for the second time within a few weeks of the first reading. One of the rare exceptions is Susan Vreeland's new novel about Canadian painter Emily Carr, aptly entitled "The Forest Lover." Of course such a title would attract me immediately, not matter what it was about. To find the subject a woman painter who struggled with her role in life, felt out of place in her community, and eventually won acclaim and a full sense of her work - well, how delicious!
You may know Susan Vreeland for her earlier novel, "The Passion of Artemisia," about the first woman painter to succeed on her own. I loved that book too. But "The Forest Lover" is closer to my heart. Nothing inspires my own work more than the forests where I live. They're not Emily Carr's forests of the Canadian West. My forests are tamer forests, populated largely with the same trees with which I grew up in the midwest. But I understand Emily's passion for the trees and for the wild places.
Here are a few quotes from my first reading of "The Forest Lover:"
"To go to my grave without knowing whether it was lack of talent or lack of perseverance that failed me, without feeling that I'd probed deeply, without sucking the joy out of hearty work, that would be self-inflicted pain I could never forgive myself for." (p. 275)
"Someday, when some God-quality in her was fully in accord with the God surrounding her, she would achieve that one true painting." (p. 278)
"Do you like better to paint or to feel communion? They are the same." (p. 312)
"...how she could make love to the universe by painting." (p. 323)
"Maybe it was the nature of artists to crave praise. Something had to feed the inner person for the lifetime labor of bringing a perso's work to maturity. The trick was to keep praise from hurting that work, and to keep on seeking." (p. 323)
"It's your own reckoning you have to go to bed with." (p. 323)