Category Archives: fiction

The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland

I knew Susan Vreeland as the author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue, which I really enjoyed. So when I saw this title, I grabbed it.
I took the book with me on a trip to Haida Gwaii in northern BC, which turned out to be the perfect place to read it since The Forest Lover is the story of Emily Carr.

I did not know much about Emily Carr besides a few commonly known facts and her paintings.
I can’t imagine the amount and time and research the author must have spent to find so many little personal details. The book is historical fiction since it gives the characters dialogue, but it does read like nonfiction since it is so closely based on a real life.
You get to know Emily’s family, her parents and sisters. You travel along on her physical and her psychological journey as she grows both as a person and as an artist. In an era where women artists were not common, Emily travels throughout BC but also to England and France. She learns about life and about painting techniques. We see struggles in her personal life and in her strong, defiant character.
At first I had a little bit of trouble getting into the story but soon I was caught up in the person that was Emily Carr. Through the story I also learned much about aboriginal life on Canada’s West Coast (she was one of the few white people whom First Nations people embraced as a close friend). I learned about First Nations villages and homes, about potlatches and totems, food, fishing and much more.
All in all, I found this a fascinating book and admire the incredible amount of research done to bring Emily Carr to life on the pages.

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones

For years I kept coming across a scrap of paper on my desk, or in a drawer. The title of a book recommended by someone, I can’t even remember who recommended it.
Mr. Pip – the story of a teacher in the South Pacific’ that scrap of paper said. I never threw it out because the title held such promise. 
Then, a few weeks ago, I was cleaning up the shelves in the recycle book depot and there it was. A blue book with a photo of a palm tree and ocean. Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones.
The book was in terrible shape: stained and possibly mildewed. But the title had so long been with me that I could not bear to part with it. I took it home.
And when I opened the tattered cover, I fell right in. I fell into the story and in love with the characters. What a work of great literature! What spell binding storytelling.
Take Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, transport it to an island in the South Pacific ravaged by mining, strikes and violence. Enter a young girl and a teacher who shares his love of literature. Weave in intrigue, suspense, some nonfiction and an exotic location.
The story is brilliant, full of beauty and horror. Full of gentleness and violence.
It is the tale of the impact a gifted teacher can have on eager children, the power of a good story to turn someone into a lifelong reader, even to influence a life. It’s even about how a story can claim a life.
It’s hard to sum up the storyline, I won’t even try. This is a book you need to read if you are a book lover, or a teacher, or an admirer of Dickens. To quote from the book itself:
‘You cannot pretend to read a good book.
Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing.
A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe.’
I forgot to breathe throughout this story. A quote from the very last page of this 256 page book:
‘His survival was story. My Mr. Dickens taught every one of us kids that our voice was special, and that whatever else happened to us in our lives our voice could never been taken away from us.’
Lloyd Jones’ voice is special. It makes me want to try his other books.
I hope you will try this one.

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, Random House, ISBN 978-0-676-97928-2