Category Archives: historic 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.

The Freedom of Jenny by Julie Burtinshaw

The Freedom of Jenny by Julie Burtinshaw

When I first read this book, I was entralled. Not only by the story of an African American family who buy their own freedom and travel west on the pioneer trail. But specifically by the fact that Jenny ultimately settles on the Gulf Island where I now live.

Jenny Estes shares her father’s dream of freedom. But for Jenny, who was born into slavery in Missouri in the 1840’s, freedom seems an impossible dream. She toils alongside her mother in the steaming kitchen of the Leopold plantation, trying her best to be humble and obedient so that Mrs. Leopold won’t sell her to a slave-trader. But when she’s not drying dishes or mixing biscuits, Jenny finds time to practice her reading, a skill that ultimately helps the family plan their migration and realize their dream.

The Estes family faces a formidable journey: a grueling passage from Missouri to Saltspring Island, Canada. Along the way, Jenny’s family faces scarlet fever, racial persecution, the arduous Oregon Trail, warring native Haidas, and finally, the challenges of homesteading. Jenny’s spirit and fortitude in the face of many adversities make her a heroine all young readers can look up to.

Based on a true story, this tale is a gripping account of one young girl’s coming-of-age in troubling and unsettling times.
Once I moved to Salt Spring Island, I saw historical photos of the family on which this story is based. I have met their ancestors. I am fascinated by this well written book and a history so close to home.

Raincoast, ISBN 1551928396