Helen McLean's prose is lucid and evocative. She is at her best in conveying the appeal of a place where she feels spiritually at home, whether that is a spartan cottage on Lake Ontario or a villa in the vineyards of Piemonte. This multi-talented artist is an inspiration to all women and proves that it is never too late to achieve self-fulfilment.    

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The Man And The Woman

The Man and The Woman by Helen McLean

Helen McLean’s new novel  The Man and The Woman  was published in the fall  of 2014 by Cormorant Books.

In 1946 a Toronto girl goes to England to study art, and falls in love with war-scarred London and its people. Pierre Bonnard, the elderly French artist whose work first ignited her desire to paint, prepares to make a final visit to Paris . Although their lives are widely disparate as to time and place, parallels emerge as their two stories unfold.

Elizabeth’s father had urged her to take a university degree, “something to fall back on” when she marries. As a young man Bonnard was pressed by his father into a hated career in the law. Both escape their families’ plans and devote their lives to art. Both achieve early success — Elizabeth as a portraitist, Bonnard as a painter and lithographer.

Elizabeth is absorbed “almost osmotically,” in her words, into the quasi-communal menage of a prominent London art-dealer and his family, and as their protégé finds herself being offered more portrait commissions than she can easily fulfil. Bonnard joins a group of like-minded art-school friends and is swept into the exhilarating artistic and social milieu of the publishers of an avant-garde magazine.

In time, both artists come to see that  acclamation and critical success is not enough. If they are truly to discover their own artistic resources and understand what it is they are trying to achieve, they must leave those great cities and live more simply.  Elizabeth, who had yearned from the day of her arrival  to be English herself, leaves London and her British lover to live and work in a small city in Sicily. With his lifelong companion Marthe, Bonnard moves to a village in Provençe where he produces the most extraordinary and beautiful works of his long life.