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I recently I felt an urge to return to Girl in Hyacinth Blue and read it once again. That novel is a tour de force, really, and I felt nourished and inspired by re-reading it. The book is brilliant in its overall conception, as delicate and luminous in its execution as a Vermeer canvas itself. Those intertwined stories imprint themselves on the mind like myths that do not fade.
While I was reading those tales that tunneled into the past, circling back closer and closer toward a core secret and the artist himself, I settled into bed around midnight and turned off the light, but found myself wakeful...My head brimmed with your characters, their struggles and dilemmas. I flicked on my teeny-tiny book lite so that I could keep on going. The interlinked eras and self-contained chapters were thatcompelling. Who can ever forget the tormented Cornelius Engelbrecht with "his forehead a torture of grooves"? Or Laurens in "Adagia", who feels reluctance to give the painting to his newly betrothed daughter, due to the memories it evokes of "someone from long ago"? Or your depiction of the internal tensions within Vermeer himself ? The artist feels a gnawing urgency to provide new shoes for his household of eleven noisy children, while at the same time, he knows that each of his paintings requires months of rumination before he undertakes its creation. He believes that "A man has time for only a certain number of paintings in his lifetime [so] he'd better choose them prudently."
It's rare to find a writer who can equal your visual gifts. Sometimes your painterly eye conjures up textures and details that result in striking phrases or sentences that carry us to the novel's very last page (e.g., "Light rain pricked the charcoal green canal water into delicate, dark lace ..."). Elsewhere, your capacity to generate visual beauty leads to an extended scene with cinematic impact, as we see, for instance, on the night after Laurens walks through the woods and brings Tanneke home. He remains outside, observing Tanneke's silhouette moving on the other side of a curtain as she carries a candle upstairs to her room and begins to undress before she blows out the flame. His mind (and the reader's) rushes to fill in details of her unseen room with its oval mirror and bed with four posts. That portrait of his yearning and her ethereal beauty is iconic, and a typical reflection of your endless talent.
For me, one of the most unforgettable chapters in the novel is "From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers". For all its harshness and grit, for all of sense of brutal truths about what it must have been like to survive in the Netherlands during a long ago era, I find it a tale that's almost Biblical in its beauty. The visual descriptions are astoundingly original. At the time of Aletta Pieters's hanging, rain pours off the ends of her fingers, and her klompen fall off ("her feet, wild then still."). The flooding and rising waters feel Biblical, indeed. As Adriaan floats through the square between the Radhuis and church where his hanged lover Aletta has been washed away, he sees "water flat as a pewter plate, upon which an enormous rat rode a wooden door." Adriaan puts the babe and painting in his uncle's skiff, and he might as well be Noah setting forth in an arc. Among the many impressive scenes in Girl in Hyacinth Blue, I found this to be perhaps the one that most brilliantly blended geographical facts with drama ("When the land was drained, the fields would be covered with sea sand, and the soil would be salted for years.") What a tour de force of the imagination! The lust between Adriaan Kuypers and Aletta Pieters, and the bitter results of their colliding lives take on mythic proportions, thanks to your considerable talents as a raconteur. ("All I'd learned at university to be firm and eternal was floating unanchored ...") One extraordinary scene flows inexorably into the next, once again through a series of iconic pictures. Adriaan sees two children leaning out a red shuttered window as he drifts in the skiff. He sees that they are happy children. Their mother asks no questions as she instinctively lowers a bucket with an earthenware jar of milk for the babe in the skiff, thus convincing Adriaan that this is the place. The scenario ends on the perfect auditory note as Adriaan leaves the babe and the painting in the skiff of the children's father, which is tied to a gable. As Adriaan departs, he hears that skiff knock against the house "like a blessing."
If you saw my copy of Girl in Hyacinth Blue, you'd see a hundred colorful post-its marking sentences, scenes, and passages that I admire -- countless things that made me pause, and uplifted my heart. The prose is often understated, quiet, and delicate -- an homage to Vermeer. The depth of your ruminations repeatedly awe me; your thoughts feel as gentle and reverent as prayers, as in the scene when Vermeer's daughter recalls washing his dead body: "When she washed him in his bed that last time, his fingers already cold, she had a thought, the shame of which prevented her from uttering: It would make a fine painting, a memorial, the daughter with towel and blue-figured washing bowl at bedside, her hand covering his, the wife exhausted on the Spanish chair clutching a crucifix, the father-husband, eyes glazed, looking to another landscape. While he painted everyone else, no one was there to paint him, to make him remembered. She yearned to do it, but the task was too fearsome. She lacked the skill, and the one to teach her had never offered."
Huge thanks for bringing Girl in Hyacinth Blue into this world, and your other marvelous novels as well.
With love and warmth, Adrienne
Girl in Hyacinth Blue is exquisite. Your novel has the feel of oral history to me, the sense of listening to ordinary people talking about their lives - it captivates me that you achieve this through fiction. You show how a painting reflects the differing perspectives of artist, subject and successive audiences and layer this with the impact art has at the soul level, how vital art is for "ordinary" people. Each of your stories brings to the foreground what it is to be human: to love, desire, yearn, lose and to live with the consequences of our choices.The way you structured these stories is breathtaking.
Thank you for the experience,
Dear Mrs. Susan Vreeland,
Your book Girl in Hyacinth Blue was a wonderful novel. Each short story was one I could relate to. The stories of love, and pain were well written. I couldn't ask for anything better. These stories connected to me through more than the meanings of them but through each character's connection with the painting. They are the true showing of the lives people live, from all the little things that matter, to all the big things. Each character and story is connected through a love for something or someone, or longing to be like the girl in the painting. Everyone has these feelings and you described them truly. You did a wonderful job. I loved it!
My gratitude stretches beyond the sheer enjoyment of merely having read all of your novels. It has entered my own "inner sanctuary" for creative expression. Your writing has stirred much thought within me. and I will use it further with my students and in my own creative expression. You fuse together the two crafts seamlessly, and in so doing validate the rightful coexistence of the picture and word in our personal language.
I'm writing because I opted to use GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE in a freshman seminar course I'm teaching this semester entitled "Knowledge and the Art of Creative Writing". The main text is John Gardner's THE ART OF FICTION. I believed of course, that your book would work well in illustrating both good writing and "the main thrust of the course" every ambitious author's obligation to acquire a broad base of knowledge, and then to adopt the attitude of a lifelong learner. I just wanted to tell you that, now that I am working my way carefully through your book with the students, it exceeds my most optimistic expectations. Again and again you provide beautifully clear examples of so many of the points in Gardner's book, his insights into what makes good fiction. You are a master of it. Thank you for many hours of reading pleasure, those past and those yet to come.
Kurt Corriher, Ph.D.
"I'm an Italian student. I'm 18 and I'm going to do the final exam at the scientific liceum. The passion of Artemisia was given to me by my uncle as a gift on Christmas 2010. I loved this book as nothing else. I loved your deep analysis of the female nature and its mixture with art. Besides, it talks about all Italian places that I have visited and found so beautiful. This book, your words, helped me in a difficult period of my life so I'll always have to be graceful to you. After reading Artemisia I bought Clara and Mr Tiffany and Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renoir belongs to my favourite artistic movement). I finished them and I'm going to start reading Forest lover but the study, the sport and my activity in the church don't leave me so much time. I'm sure I'll read it this summer and I would really love to continue reading all your books. This is me in a few words. Please excuse me for the mistakes in the English language but I'm not perfect at speaking and writing it. I can't wait for the 22nd when you are in Rome and I'll never stop to thank you for your words. Nobody else had been able to capture me before as you, Dear Mrs Vreeland!"
Arianna Turriziani Colonna
Dear Ms. Vreeland,
Thank you for introducing me into the life of Artemisia Gentileschi. The passion that you have portrayed in your novel has moved me to learn all that I can about this truly remarkable woman that I had never heard about. I have never been interested in art and now I find myself researching all that I can to learn. With this book you have driven me into a new world that I am so wanting to know more about.
I attended one of your book signings in Northern, VA this past Feb. I had not read the book yet, but was very intrigued by your talk. Thank you for giving me a new passion.
I recently finished reading your book 'The Passion of Artemisia' and I wanted to thank you for writing it. As a woman artist (painter), your work speaks to me. I very much enjoyed both 'The Forest Lover' and 'Girl in Hyacinth Blue' (I have 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' and 'Life Studies' on order) and was thrilled to find 'Artemisia' at a time when I truly needed her.
My mother passed away a couple months ago. I have been feeling her absence and missing her badly. I was unable to paint for a while and although I had slowly started again I was feeling no passion for it. I was worried because it has always been my passion and I missed the joy it brings me. As I began to read your wonderful novel about Artemisia Gentileschi, the flames of my passion began to ignite again. Reading of her struggle and her sacrifices made me feel so fortunate to be a woman artist in this day and age. How much we take for granted.
I felt as though you were touching my soul and telling me exactly what I needed to hear with the line on page 281 when Artemisia is talking to her father: "We've been lucky...We have been able to live by what we love. And to live painting, as we have, wherever we have, is to live passion and imagination and connection and adoration, all the best of life--to be more alive than the rest."
I have been so fortunate to have been able to make my living for over twenty years by selling my art--to "live painting". It was all I had ever wanted. In my grief I had forgotten how lucky I am. Thank you for reminding me. The painting I was working on while reading your book took on a life of its own. I pushed it a step beyond and it is one of my best. The passion is back.
I have just finished reading two of your books, "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" and "The Passion of Artemisia." I was fascinated by "Girl in Hyacinth Blue." Both books I stayed up late to read and got up early to begin again, thoroughly upsetting my calendar for the day. Marvelous. When I picked up "The Passion of Artemisia" I was thunderstruck. It was in a different country than the first book. I'm in awe and amazement at your research of countries and cultures and their effect on the individuals. But most of all, I was transported by the spirituality of Artemisia. I started marking the places that spoke to me, and then I quit. It was too hard to keep up. On page 148, I loved the statement, "Regardless of Galileo's logic, the highest of arts is to uplift the spirit, whatever means one uses," at the end of a long paragraph on faith and trust of God. Others I loved: "See yourself as God made you." (p.20); "My soul, even my little soul, makes the Lord more magnificent by something I had to offer" (p. 21); "As long as you hold onto your pain, you will live a mean, bitter life." (p.37). It was a wonderful experience to imagine the life behind the artists and the paintings. I loved your sentence structure and the way you kept me reading. Thank you.
I'm an Italian girl of 15 years old, Vittoria. I live in Lerici, a little village by the sea near Cinque Terre and Genova, at the border with Toscana. It's 17.47, but we're in April, so here in my room there's still a lot of light.
I've already finished "The Passion of Artemisia". It' s a book that opened my eyes. During these days, while I was reading it, I felt very free and different. Through Artemisia I felt alive. Now, if I lean out of the window and I observe the sea, I feel gratified. Yesterday afternoon I wished to eat an apple and to ride the bike. I know that all the things I'm writing haven't sense, but however I feel that are all connected with this book. I need to tell all my feelings. You know, this is a time in my life during that I think a lot about the type of woman I want to be. I'd like to be independent, and work. But at the same time my first dream is to have a family and love. Even if Artemisia lived centuries ago, I feel her story near, and still current.
I'd like to know your objective opinion about Artemisia's choices (especially about the marriage and love). Finally, I would be very pleased if you could tell me where nowdays I can find some Artemisia's paintings.
I have just finished listening to "The Passion of Artemisia".Thank you for writing such a beautiful book. My daughter Elisabeth is 23 and a newly married artist. Although I have been very supportive of all her decisions, it wasn't until listening to your book that I began to truly understand her need to pursue painting. Elisabeth paints for hours at a time and often refers to feeling content. She has tried to explain the difference between contentment and happiness. Now I think I understand. If we are concerned only with being happy, we deny ourselves a large part of the realm of human emotions. Contentment comes when we do what we know we must, regardless of the consequences and resulting emotions we are facing. With this new understanding my pride in my daughter has grown even stronger. Thank you again.
The reason I am writing is that as I read the end of the chapter "Lucrezia" I developed a lump in my throat and then tears came to, and fell from, my eyes. I don't think that has ever happened to me in over 40 years of reading for pleasure. As I write this I am surprised to feel the same thing again. That is the highest compliment I can think of to pay you for your talent. I hope that I have an opportunity to shake your hand one day.
How often do you wish a movie would just go on and on or a book would never end? I've been reading an historical fiction called "The Passion of Artemisia" by Susan Vreeland. Susan writes gently and delicately, yet directly about a life of harshness, hardship, betrayal, courage, dignity and great beauty. It is an interesting insight and comparison between the seventeenth and the twenty-first centuries. So much has changed. So little has changed.
And at the end Artemisia is able to say to her brilliant but disreputable father, "We've been lucky. We've been able to live by what we love. And to live (in italics) painting, as we have, wherever we have, is to live passion and imagination and connection and adoration, all the best of life -- to be more alive than the rest."
"Than who? More alive than who?"
"Than my own daughter, for one. I feel life more intensely than she does. I take its bite as fully as its beauties. I hope that means I'll come to die contented that I have really lived."
"You don't have any regrets?"
And I will leave it there. Obviously I cannot command the talent of either Gentileschi nor Vreeland. But I can say that this book challenged me to think about my own life and my own work. And maybe I can consider those two things in a broader way, thanks to the work that Susan Vreeland does.
After hearing you speak at the Concord Bookshop in Concord, MA., my friend and I read The Girl in Hyacinth Blue. In fact, I've read it several times now. We suggested it to our book group for a reading selection. Needless to say, it was loved by all and inspired lots of wonderful conversation. My friend and I were able to share some of your story about your illness and the saving affect art had on your recovery. I felt a strong compulsion to see Vermeer's work in NYC. I tried to get there but was too intimidated to drive to NYC. Depending on someone else to make it happen meant it never happened. So I missed the show and have only a lovely Vermeer poster hanging in my living room to bring a little of his art to my life.
When we heard you were coming back to Concord, MA and had written The Passion of Artemisia ,we suggested that our book group meeting be at the book store. Several of us made it there and listened again as you so beautifully read from the book and shared about the art and history of that time. I was hooked. Then and there!! This time I HAD to see the Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi show at the MET. How lucky to be living in a place where these works of art are available. I was not going to let my insecurities get in the way again. So, three of us from our book group, determined to get ourselves to NYC, got in the car on a Sat morning and drove to NYC all by ourselves!! Yes, we drove in, found a place to park, even visited one woman's daughter that lives in the city, had lunch and went to the show. I cried when I saw her paintings. It was incredible to see in person the art that I felt like I had watched her paint. I cried because we were THERE, I cried for Artemisia, I cried for me, I cried for you, and I cried for the friendship that a three hour trip car ride nourishes.
I continue to cry as I write this thinking about her story, her art, our lives, our fears, our possibilities. The sense of satisfaction and the excitement of conquering a fear to witness such beauty was more than I could take. I knew I needed to thank you for the inspiration and the story telling that made this all possible.
So, this e-mail is a thank you. It is my clumsy effort to let you know that your writing has changed a life. My life. We have since driven to NYC again for the day with me at the wheel. There is a new confidence in my way of living. Small life changes compared to most, but major for me. Thank you for inspiring me to reach a little deeper to find ways to experience the world around me. Thank you for sharing the story of your illness and strength. Your writing and your life have truly inspired me in so many ways. Thank you.
The most moving of all, so far, and a great revelation to me, is the book I've just finished reading: "The Forest Lover." I have a BFA in drawing and painting but I had never heard of Emily Carr (for shame!).
The thoughts and words you had your Emily Carr convey were perhaps worth more to me than all the art history classes I've taken. They may even make me take up the brush again.
The struggle for believable foreshortening or proportion, etc., will now take a backseat to spontaneity and the search for the spirit of the subject.
You conveyed beautifully Emily's inner struggle to find that spirit by connecting with how the subject made her feel, and also the idea that her art was about her own spiritual journey, whether anyone else responded or not.
I am looking forward to reading "Clara and Mr. Tiffany," but I must take it slow, because what will I do when I've finished it?
Thank you for writing The Forest Lover. I have just finished reading
it for the fourth time. I have read most of it to my children as well
but am waiting for them to get a bit older before finishing it.
Harold's story is too real and Sophie's loss too big for their innocence.
Again, thank you for so much time well spent lost in a story.
I finished reading your novel, The Forest Lover , early this morning and I wanted to say thank you for writing such a lovely, lovely book. Not only was the writing exquisite and the descriptions of the Pacific Northwest forests absolutely perfect, you also were able to describe exactly how to see/feel colors the way a Fauvist would have. For the first time ever, I can say that I understand what I'm looking at, what I should be feeling, and what, perhaps, the artist was trying to say through her paintings. While I understood the importance of the French artists who developed Fauvism and the impact it had on art history, I couldn't "see" it until I read your descriptions of Emily learning to "see" in France and later in Canada. Certain passages in your book took my breath away with how beautifully you wrote. I am from the Pacific Northwest and currently away from the West Coast You made me homesick, educated me, brought tears to my eyes and entertained me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
With kindest regards,
I write to you because I am reading The Forest Lover and I have to thank you with all my heart for this book. I grew up in Port Hardy, near Fort Rupert. I played floor hockey against the native girls in Alert Bay with my native friends from Port Hardy. The Kwakiutl chief James Wallace and my mother wrote a book together called "Kwakiutl Legends", (Hancock House 1981). My mother and father were invited to a potlach. I have lived near and camped a week at a time on the Skeena, and have explored Kitwanga. In spite of this compassionate exposure to the plight and loss experienced by First People, I now see how superficially and intellectual my understanding was (is).
In fact, I didn't understand at all (or didn't want to). We Canadians have been brought up guilty for what our ancestors did to the First Peoples, and we are tired of saying sorry. Shame is very uncomfortable. We are usurpers, yet we are Canadians and now we belong here too.
Through reading your book, I realize that our education has been "from the outside". You have caused me to see from the inside, and it has done me a world of good. I cried so much reading this book, (very unusual for me), and now I am longing to look again, learn and just listen. Thank you so much for your deep, perceptive knowledge of the land. I know a little of those forests, those beaches, for they are in my blood. I run to them to heal myself in their rhythmic silence (they are never silent). It was so good to smell and taste them again.
You have written with such grace and honour. I really feel that this is a sacred work. You are a beautiful soul.
With deep gratitude,
Once I read a book, I never (almost never) read it again because I feel I have learned just about all it has to tell me and there are so many other books waiting to be read. But I will be reading The Forest Lover again, not really to pick up anything I might have missed the first time, but just to be transported back to times and places you have recreated so vividly and lovingly, for the emotional experience, for the scenes I remember so fondly or wish that I had seen with my own eyes, and to again be with people of the first part of the last century, before everybody knew everything. Thank you for the years you have spent on your book.
...It is incredible to me how you are able to share the vision of Emily Carr in such an authentic and sensitive fashion. Reading your book was an unmitigated pleasure to me.
Dear Ms. Vreeland;
I have to thank you with all my heart for this book. I grew up in Port Hardy, British Columbia. I played floor hockey against the native girls in Alert Bay with my native friends from Port Hardy. The Kwakiutl chief James Wallace and my mother wrote a book together called Kwakiutl Legends. My mother and father were invited to a potlatch. I have lived near and camped on the Skeena River, and have explored Kitwanga.
In spite of this compassionate exposure to the plight and loss experienced by First Nations People, I now see how superficial and intellectual my understanding was (is). I didn't understand at all (or didn't want to). We Canadians have been brought up guilty for what our ancestors did to First Nations Peoples, and we are tired of saying sorry. Shame is very uncomfortable. We are usurpers, yet we are Canadians and now we belong here too. Through reading your book, I realize that our education has been from the outside. You have caused me to see from the inside, and it has done me a world of good. I cried so much reading this book, (very unusual for me), and now I am longing to look again, learn, and just listen. Thank you so much for your deep, perceptive knowledge of the land. I know a little of those forests, those beaches, for they are in my blood. I run to them to heal myself in their rhythmic silence. It was so good to smell and taste them again. You have written with such grace and honour. I really feel that this is a sacred work. You are a beautiful soul.
With deep gratitude,
I bought The Forest Lover to read on my annual Brittany holiday because an internet search came up with it as a novel with a Breton setting. When I found it began in Canada I was disappointed. For about two paragraphs and then I was hooked. Thank you for this big, beautiful novel which, amongst other things, moved me to tears, I confess, and inspired me to paint again. In the interest of artistic exchange I would love to send you a copy of my poetry book.
I started The Forest Lover last Thursday and just finished a bit ago and I'm simply overwhelmed at its beauty.You've managed to put into words what Emily tried to put into her paintings.It's not just the characters and the sense that while we know another person, we will never understand all of their vast inner spaces, although that is certainly present. It's that the whole book is lush and green, just as in the forests you describe. Even the dark spaces are there to highlight the happy parts. As for the artist, you've rebuilt her just as Dzunukwa, herself. I'm from a small town here in the Midwest of America and if you've kindled an immense interest & respect for Carr's work in me, I cannot grasp the scope of what you do for her on a worldwide level. So mostly I wanted to thank you for the great weekend of reading. It was a good share, indeed.
Awaiting the next one,
I just finished reading (savouring) your novel on Emily Carr. I was so moved and inspired by this book. I live in Victoria, have known about Emily Carr for years and even seen some of her paintings. But until I read your book I was not particularly interested in her or her life. Now I am reading about her in The Art of Emily Carr, and plan to read some of her books too. I realize that, as you wrote in the afterword, this is a novel not a biography, and that some of the people are composites of various people, etc. Nonetheless, I want what you wrote to be true and so I choose to hold it in my heart as at least an emotional truth about her life. I wept when Billy died, I wept for Sophie, I wept for Harold. Thank you so much for your inspiration, for the tenderness with which you told of Emily's life. What a wonderful gift you have given with this story.
I am so full of awe and praise for your talents that I hope I don't sound like a blunderhead. Yesterday I finished reading "The Forest Lover". I become part of that book as I read. Parts of it actually brought me to tears. Parts made me laugh out loud. I certainly related to the feeling of being closer to God in His wondrous landscapes. I've gushed to everyone who would listen to me this past week about how great your book is, and how they must read it. Now...because of "The Forest Lover" and Emily Carr, I must go back to the Pacific Northwest and take it all in through different eyes.
I just finished the book, The Forest Lover. Your portrayal of Emily Carr and the inner struggles that she must have dealt with have given me courage and made sense of many things in my life. Emily's love of the forest and indigenous culture are things that I relate to with all of my heart. I deal with the paradox of my romantic leanings toward Native American culture and the grim realities of what it means to be indigenous in the present time. I am of Cherokee heritage and these issues have woven their ways through my psyche and my dreams and therefore my art. I know that there is no easy answer, no simple way to sum up what it is to be American or Native American. No simple way to describe our relationship to the earth and the spirits and power that nature holds. Reading your book has done what good art does: it let me look at myself and possibly understand my own reactions, dreams, and life views a bit better. Oh, and it also challenges my viewpoints; that's an important thing.
The ideas in your story that were powerful to me, besides the struggle to paint what Emily felt, were those of the disconnection that a person can feel in his or her own family, the injustice of how people who are "misfits" are treated in society as in the case of Harold Cook. That whole portion of the story ripped at my heart. I think that the voice you gave to his autobiography was worthy and true in getting across his yearnings. I read that Harold Cook's writings were never found and that is a tragedy. Your writings have made his voice speak. In a very universal sense, you have honored these people in a way that they never could have received in their own lifves. Sophie's friendship with Emily was another poignant account in how we can feel so close to someone and yet not know them at all. It also underscores the truth that although we think we can understand another culture truly, there is no absolute way to do that without being born to the culture.
Your portrayal about the ways in which European society tried to change indigenous ways brutally and inhumanely were perhaps the biggest strength of this book. Emily's outrage over these things was one of the central themes in her life and painting, from what I understand. It's good for people to look at these issues because they really are present still today.
Anyhow, thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this story. It is such a worthy tale and your writing was sensitive and filled with the visual beauty that only a real art lover can craft.
-- Lisa Gatz,
I have just finished The Forest Lover. I had to write while the feelings were still in my heart. Thank you. It was one of the most engaging books I have ever read. To you my dear wonderful woman, I cannot say enough about your writing style, always filled with little surprises along the way. Easy to follow. I cried, I laughed, I recreated facial expressions and gestures and sounds from your descriptions as I read. It was almost like watching a movie, and being in it at the same time! And of course you know you have made a new recruit to the Emily Carr fan club... My connection with Emily Carr has become almost spiritual vicariously through you. Your sensitivity to writing about a life that well deserved the attention is admirable. Even the Author's Afterword speaks to the integrity of your work.
Thank you again, for taking the time to share your creativity. This work has left an indelible impression on my soul. A cherished memory to remember and hold as an example whenever I think I have already expended enough energy towards my art.
I'm pleased to inform you that your book The Forest Lover has been selected for Outstanding Achievement recognition by the Wisconsin Library Association's Literary Awards Committee. We reviewed more than 250 books and selected ten for Outstanding Achievement.
-- Sandy Sechrest,
A long time ago when I was young I had the opportunity to see some of Emily Carr's work. Heard stories about her life and always has a special interest when people were discussing her. Over the last several years I have begun a collection of her books and have also picked up most books that were written about her by her friends and acquaintances. I have just completed reading your book and found it to be the best. Your insight into life and the perspective of the time is wonderful. I understand it took you seventeen years to write this book. I'm so glad you stuck with it as it truly has a wonderful insight. The spirit of EMC comes through in your book. Your knowledge of the struggles of the west coast native is remarkable, your insight into the Canadian establishment, and your neglect of a group who tried to ride her shirt tails, and your connection with her love for critters all make the book the best. Your book catches part of Canadian history which no one around here has been able to capture. Emily's spirit in native art and forest, trees and life, you have captured them all.
Thanks from all of us up here,
I applaud your fantastic presentation at Warwick's tonight about The Forest Lover. I so thoroughly loved your dramatic reading/recitations with creative gestures, I wondered if you have considered reading The Forest Lover on audio tapes. You interrelated so well with the audience answering questions and demonstrating the progression of Carr's evolution of portraying trees with her pictures. Your presentation was very informative, instructional about how to write historical novels, culturally enlightening with a growth of appreciation, and spiritually and philosophically inspiring. Your conclusion cannot be surpassed. Thank you so much for all the lives you have touched and will touch. I thought how lucky your students were to have had you as their teacher.
After reading and loving Girl in Hyacinth Blue , I am now reading Life Studies and loving it to bits. I love your poetic touches throughout everything you write---so many times, I stop reading and just sigh and ooh and ah over an image you describe--describing the vast night sky as a chandelier----WOW!
I love your writing as much as I love that of Willa Cather, the Bronte sisters, Carol Shields, and Anne Patchet, my other favorite authors. I feel I waited nearly 50 years to find an author whose writing teaches, entertains, inspires, and revitalizes my life as much as yours. THANK YOU for giving of your very special gifts----thank you for your indefatigable research---thank you for your poetry and elegance, your engrossing plots, multi-dimensional characters, wit, charm, humanity, depth....Please keep writing these novels!
I am reading Life Studies and have just finished "At Least Five Hundred Words, with Sincerity and Honesty". It would interest you to know that the copy of Life Studies I am reading was checked out from the library here in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It is bound in a plain blue cover with a black and white photocopy of the title and author portion of your original cover laminated to it. The cover artwork would have had the book censored I guess. I am awfully glad to have found it in the new book section.
--a reader from Saudi Arabia
Renoir wasn't my favourite painture, I prefer Degas, but when I've read Luncheon... and now I feel like I know Alphonsine, Angele, Ellen, Antonio, Gustave, Aline, Alphonse, Charles, Paul, Pierre, Jules, Raoul and Jeanne, I really enjoy this painting and I also like Renoir much more when I've read about him altough I was pretty mad when he chosed Aline over Alphonsine. My favourite character was Angele. She was realy simple and funny, but also really chick and smart. It is really amazing that everyone on that picture had their life, their dreams, their feelings. I think it is everything I want to tell you for now, but if I would meet you in person, my mouth wouldn't take a holiday, I am so impressed by your book. Hope you'll answer. I just wanted you to know that if I would do anything with art you would have big influence on that.
With love and respect,
Dear Susan Vreeland,
I am absolutely LOVING "Luncheon of the Boating Party"! What you have done! The construction of a masterpiece; the ideas, decisions, resolve, ephiphanies, observations, ambition, practicalities, context, humor; the man, the artist! It is like your book was written just for ME. I am savoring every word. It is not only an affirmation, but also a deep inspiration.
It has been my pleasure to surround and indeed mentally engulf myself with your tales of our dear Renoir. I have just finished Luncheon of the Boating Party . I can only say that as an artist, your story just filled me with encouragement, filled me with a sense of kindness and empathy that only another artist could possibly understand. I have engaged a model so that I may embark on yet a new, way to paint. Thank you for taking that literary journey and giving us, so many of us, the pleasure of a bit of insight to Renior. You have no idea how it up lifted me. I paint every day and with joy to know that his color freedom was with me.
Thank you so much for your fine work.
I want to thank you for enriching my life with two books you wrote. Luncheon of the Boating Party and Life Studies. It opened up a whole era for me that I have always felt connected to, but did not know much about. My interest in La Belle Epoch was also fueled by my in-laws. My mother in law was a well known chansonniere in Europe and her mother ( my husband's grandmother) was a poor flower girl from Paris, rescued and married by a Dutch artist in 1898. I knew her, but now she seems so much more familiar to me. A print of "Luncheon of the Boating Party" is now hanging over my kitchen table and I say good morning to Aline and Gustave, Paul and of course Renoir himself. Thank you again for giving me a taste and feel of a time, long ago.
Thank you! I just finished listening to your Luncheon of the Boating Party as an audio book. I learned so much: how artists think and create, their actual craft (how the paints were created), history of a time period, the customs and classes during that time in France. And that wasn't even the beautiful story you wove. I have discovered as I listen to different novels that writing skill becomes very apparent. Am I hearing short, choppy sentences that interfere with my focus on the story, or is this a novel so well written that I can't wait to rejoin that author's world? Yours was definitely the latter. I am having a hard time letting go of Renoir and the gang.
Thank you again.
I am writing to tell you how much I, and, vicariously, my family, have all enjoyed Luncheon of the Boating Party. I cried upon finishing it. I was so moved...well, by the entire book, but especially by the final chapter wherein you, in Alphonsine's voice, wrap up the story and Renoir's life for us. It was so delicate and emotional to read about Aline and Renoir and how their life progressed, as well as realizing the twists and turns Alphonsine's life took.
As new people were introduced and the stories of the boat races, the worries over having 13 at the table and trying to find the 14th, the loss of Circe, came about, not to mention the wonderful descriptions of Renoir's choices with the painting, I shared them with my husband and daughter at the dinner table. A print of the painting is on the wall in that room, so we could look up and see what you were talking about in the book.
Thank you so much for creating such a story! I want to read more of your books! They help us understand artists and bring to life, in a way nothing else can, who these artists were and what they were trying to do. Not since I read Woman of Substance have I cried upon finishing a book. That shows you the effect yours had on me.
I so very much adore your 'Luncheon of the Boating Party.' It is the most beautiful book I have ever read. The language is most inspiring and deliciously descriptive. I am a photographer and poet and this has created a new way of thinking and looking at life for me. Thank you for the wonderful inspiration. I enjoy all of your books.
Thank you for your beautiful words.
Thank you so much for such a wonderful book. I enjoyed it right from the start. The deeper into the story I got, the more fascinating it became and the more emotional. You gave such richness to the voice of Renoir and his models, particularly Alphonsine. He's always been one of my favorite artists and I feel I know so much more about him. Learning more about Caillebotte was an added bonus. And the flavor of 1880's Paris is so vivid and strong it made me wish I lived there then. I appreciate the bibliography, too. I've enjoyed all your other novels, but you've outdone yourself with "Luncheon". I look forward to your newest work about Tiffany.
With warmest regards,
It's been a couple years since I wrote you about how impressed I was of your deep understanding of the painter's mind in "The Forest Lover." As an artist myself, I truly appreciate a writer that gets it so right. And now, your "Luncheon," what a beautiful book--so crystal clear in its passion, so well-understood in its descriptions. I'm grateful to the powers that be that you're some place out there writing more books. "I've been seduced by color..." I've written those same words in my sketchbooks several times over the past decade--sometimes with joy and sometimes with frustration or even sadness. And "A painter should be dead if he can't paint." My 90 year old godparents--both lifelong artists, as were my parents--were interviewed for a news segment. They were asked if they would ever quit painting and in unison, this amazing and beautiful couple, married for 65 years, said "Never. The camera then zoomed in on Harry and he said, "I'll never stop. And if there's painting in heaven, I'll be doing it there too." Bless you, Susan, for knowing, understanding and expressing this wonderful creative spirit.
Gratefully and respectfully,
Jean Hohman and I, Joanne Winetzki, just finished reading aloud the "Luncheon of the Boating Party." It was delightful and so beautifully written! Chapter 40, "Incandescence," deeply moved us. As the New Age Views book reviewer for C*NAQ, Christian New Age Quarterly, many books varying between sublime and ridiculous cross my desk. You said more in that last chapter than dozens of writers have attempted to say in how many thousands of words!
We look forward to many more pleasant hours reading Vreeland aloud.
I read "Luncheon of the Boating Party" last week and I just loved it! I was transported and transfixed by your writing once again. The settings were so alive and vibrant. France felt, sounded, even smelled like my memories. All the characters were so real and nuanced, especially Renoir himself--quite amazing.
I brought the book to my mom (a voracious reader) to read, and she just sent me an email that she was forwarding to all her friends and her book club (and our family) saying that they have to read this book! Just thought you'd like to know that your fan club is growing.
All the best,
Just finished Luncheon, having taken my time on the last pages, so as to make the book last a bit longer, as well as the dream and mood. As an artist, with an artist's mind and dreams, I'm transported every time I read your words. I appreciate the glimpse of myself you provide. Also, the reminder that we belong to a long history of artists who share the full range of emotions life has to offer. Once again, you have painted beautifully. I await your next piece.
Thank you for writing Luncheon of the Boating Party. I've just re-read it and enjoyed it again on so many levels! Of course we all loved meeting you at the Amelia Island Book Festival, and talking to you by conference call after we read Girl in Hyacinth Blue as our One Book, One Community Read. But I just have to say that Luncheon touched me in more personal ways. I understand the times and the struggle of the Impressionists better, I appreciate the painting itself more, and I admire the Impressionist artists and their supporters so much more than when they were simply names on a list.
I wish I could put my finger on what's different about living Renoir's life for the hours I spent reading your book. I remember appreciating the care your took to help me love and understand the artists in The Passion of Artemisia and The Forest Lover, but this newest novel took me, personally, farther inside the artist's head. How did you do it? I didn't want the book to end.
Thank you, thank you. And what's next?
I have to tell you I thoroughly enjoyed "Luncheon of the Boating Party." It completely immersed me. I felt like I was part of la vie moderne the entire time I was reading it. And I feel I have learned so much about Renoir and Impressionism, as well as Paris. Your gift for characterization is marvelous, as is your gift for putting a person in a place and time. Thank you for an immensely enjoyable interlude with Renoir.
I'm reviewing the book in the July 1 paper.
Deirdre Parker Smith, Books editor
I just listened to the audiobook of "Clara and Mr. Tiffany" and it touched me deeply. It is one of those rare stories that one never wants to have come to an end. As a fiber artist (I'm inspired by the book to actually call myself an artist) I found a kindred spirit in Clara. You must be an artist, also, to be able to give voice to the incredible "lightness of being" that creating does to ones soul. I, like Clara, have been so uplifted by the colors and beauty of nature. To see/hear it expressed in words is amazing. I've never been able to express how creating effects me. Color has a taste to me a real physical sensation when I see it. Not a flavor, but an essence. And you have captured the feeling of it so beautifully.
I love the Art Nouveau period and the exciting things unfolding at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th. The artistry was so dynamic; so full of color and beauty. There was such a sense of wonder and possibilities. You've captured this period in New York, so wonderfully. The descriptions of the new building and new technology, the new subway, the bicycle, the cars, the Statue of Liberty, the bridges, the changes in dress and manners, the emerging self-hood of women. How gifted you are to make me feel as if I am there experiencing it with Clara and her friends.
I am also deeply appreciative of your giving voice to Clara's warm and loving friendships with other artists of her time and her evolving interactions with her housemates and co-workers. What a dear George Waldo must have been! I've tried to find more information about him on the Internet, but have not found any more information about him or his art. What a shame. But you did bring him alive, again.
I have already reserved several other of your books from my library. I intend to immerse myself in good feeling and beautifully written stories. What a nice change from so much that is written these days. Thank you so much for the courage you have to jump in there and create and bring alive these wonderful people.
I am finding so much that thrills me, and writing that is so strong.
It has been such a joy to immerse myself in Clara Driscoll's world. I feel as though I have learned so much about Tiffany glass, New York City at the turn of the century, the labor movement, how to make glass, and the beginnings of the women's movement. That doesn't begin to mention how I have enjoyed my time with Clara and Alice and George and Louis and Bernard. And that is just for starters! So let me say BRAVA!
Yours, as ever,
Back cover introduction on the Advanced Reading Edition
The New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland, makes her Random House debut with her beautifully rendered sixth novel, creating a dynamic portrait of Clara Driscoll: a leading designer for Louis Comfort Tiffany who was conflicted between her desire for artistic recognition and romantic love. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Louis Comfort Tiffany seeks to honor his father and the family business with his innovative glass designs. But it is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women's division, who develops the iconic Tiffany lamp, with its leaded glass shades and nature-based motifs, which earns Tiffany the critical acclaim and financial success he'd long dreamt of. Yearning equally for love and for recognition as a creator of unique art pieces in an atmosphere increasingly commercial, balancing the Gilded Age world of formal balls and opera with the immigrant poverty of the Lower East Side where some of her beloved girls live, and loving in different ways the five men in her life, Clara, like many women, must decide what makes her most happy--the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.
Written by Jane von Mehren, Senior Vice-President, Random House Publishing Group
Lisette is a character very much in line with all those strong women who fight for their rights, which we always look for in the novels we choose for Neri Pozza.
Your writing is as brilliant as ever. Your characters are wonderfully true and alive. The plot is brilliantly constructed and also very up to date, considering that the press talks a lot about rediscovered art, that has been stolen or hidden during the war. And in every page I could sense your passion and love for art, which I very much share with you.
There would be much more to say about this wonderful book, but I hope that by now you can already feel my enthusiasm. I'm sure that this new novel is bound to encounter a big success in Italy and we are all very much looking forward to publishing you again.
Lisette's List: I can't put into words how real it all seems with the detailed background, convincing dialogue and richness of characters. I love the way you insert French phrases so gracefully that one feels the whole text is in French...The seamless weaving of tireless research woven into naturalness of lives in a cherished setting is completely beguiling. You describe tragic things tellingly, like age, infirmity, war...so one is very aware, yet somehow doesn't get pulled down but feels enlightened. Perhaps it's because the people's love & gratitude is so tangible - for plants, animals, food, the landscape, each other... the quirky little details like arugula, patterns of petals, antics of a playful goat all seem real through their observant eyes. And no one is static, like Bernard grows, too. I was surprised and delighted to see Chagall included, another favorite. I felt like I was visiting their home. Am in awe of the deep appreciation and more than thorough research behind all this.
"Lisette's List" is one of the most wonderful books I have ever read. You captured the essential cultural differences between Provence regions and Paris. In a way like no other book, you got into the minds, hearts and souls of individuals and expressed an era with minute, subtle differences of inclinations and character. It is truly remarkable that you are able to understand Cézanne as a gentile and Chagall as a Jew and join them through the folds and ripples of landscape, emotion and color. I just wish I could write such a book. It was so deep, and yet left me with such joy and gratitude. Thank you.