History: Written in 1988.
Plot: Controversial painter Elaine Risley vividly reflects on her childhood and teenage years. Her strongest memories are of Cordelia, who was the leader of a trio of girls who were both very cruel and very kind to young Elaine, in ways that tint Elaine's perceptions of relationships and her world—not to mention her art—into the character's middle years. The novel unfolds in Canada of the mid-20th century, from World War II to the late 1980s, and includes a look at many of the cultural elements of that time period, including feminism and various modern art movements. After being called back to her childhood home of Toronto for a retrospective show of her art, Elaine reminisces about her childhood. At the age of eight she becomes friends with Carol and Grace, and, through their eyes, realises that her atypical background of traveling with her entomologist father has left her ill-equipped for conventional femininity. When Cordelia joins the group, Elaine is bullied by her "best friends". The bullying escalates that winter, when the girls abandon Elaine in the ravine pictured on the cover; half-frozen, she sees a vision of the Virgin Mary who guides her to safety. Afterwards, realising she had allowed herself to be a victim, Elaine makes new friends. As an adult, Elaine has daughters and a husband and the book goes back and forth among past and present. Elaine’s paintings are of her memories, the characters that helped form her.
Review: This book is about an artist who is having a show in Toronto, and while getting ready for the show she is reminiscing about her life in Toronto. Her paintings are very autobiographical, about the characters and stories that make up her life. Her work encapsulates significant moments of her life story. Each of these episodes she relates in chapters with headings that ultimately become her paintings. I liked this book mainly because it was about an artist, and the descriptions of her paintings inspired me, and somehow remind me of art that I wish existed. Also, It kept me wanting to read more and I was interested in what might happen to the characters. Strangely though, nothing did and, despite that, I still enjoyed reading it.
Opening Line: “Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.”
Closing line: “But it’s enough to see by. “
Quotes: "Vanity is becoming a nuisance, I can see why women give it up, event
ually. But I'm not ready for that yet."
“Down they fell, onto the men who were lying unseen, jagged and dark and without violition, far below. “