Culled from the hand-written pages in old-fashioned scribblers and almost-forgotten typescripts amid drafts for her published stories, Unvarnished features among the last unpublished and highly personal writings of the iconic Canadian author and artist Emily Carr.
This highly readable manuscript—edited by Royal BC Museum curator emerita Kathryn Bridge and illustrated with sketches and photographs from the BC Archives—spans nearly four decades, from 1899 to 1944. In an almost stream-of-consciousness outpouring of stories, Carr chronicles her early years as an art student in England, her life-altering sojourn in France and subsequent travels to Indigenous villages along the coast, her encounters with the Group of Seven, conversations with artist Lawren Harris, and her sketching trips in the “Elephant” caravan in the company of a quirky menagerie. Also included are stories written in hospital recovering from a stroke, a particularly vulnerable time in her life.
Emily Carr’s books have remained in nearly continuous print since the 1940s. Unvarnished is a fresh addition to her enduring oeuvre, to be enjoyed as a complement to her other writings or as a jewel in its own right.
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Average rating from 4 members
I knew a little about Emily Carr, having visited Victoria several times and seen some of her work in the museum there. It was fascinating to read her own accounts of her struggles to become an artist and to find her way in a world that didn't seem to accept her. The effort it must have taken her to keep going, despite all her hardships and the lack of understanding from her family and society in general until much later in her life, shows that art was, as she puts it, close to religion for her. She is funny and sharp and has a great way of describing her experiences in such a way that you feel that you know how she would have spoken if you had met her. Her paintings are magnificent and I am drawn to discover more about her after reading this book.
I adore both Emily Carr and unpublished notebooks (what can I say, I’m nosy!) so this was an unexpected treat. I loved going through these pages and getting a sense of the artistic process through the development of her pieces. Really insightful book!
“in the sanatorium we lived by rule disburdened of all responsibility even of the care of our own bodies. As near as possible you became a vegetable sun rain & snow fell upon you.” 4 stars Going in I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about Emily Carr. I very much enjoyed all the sketches and some of the poems. I loved how she captured people and some of her word choices. Readers should realize this is a very rough notebook, even with some editing, with long run on sentences, ampersands even in dialogue, numbers written numerically, etc. I was given kindle format which really is sort of pointless for this particular book. If you are at all interested in a glimpse into this complicated, messy, creative woman-get a hard copy! Pictures are impossible to really see, and it is formatted to sometimes break off mid word, continuing several pages later after drawings and pictures with the other half of the word. Thank you to the author, editor, publisher, and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.