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.    

Canadian Book Review Annual.


Monthly Archives: May 2012

Just Looking and Other Essays


In these essays Toronto writer Helen McLean meditates on her world with a painter’s eye. What at first appear to be simple observations often mask unusual and startling perceptions that prompt the surprised reader to say “why, of course!” She examines the puzzle of why an artist feels compelled to paint. What is it that captures his attention, and how does he go about reproducing that first perception in his studio, days or weeks later? Does an artist record what …

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Significant Things

Significant Things was shortlisted for the 2004 Commonwealth Best Book Prize, Canada and Caribbean Division. A man of innate taste and discrimination, Edward has become an art dealer and collector of fine antiques and paintings. During his first six idyllic years he was the centre and focus of his mother’s existence.  Betrayals and unhappiness in subsequent years have led him to form almost fetishistic attachments to beautiful objects, subsitutes for the human relationships that have invariably failed him. Now in his late …

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Details From a Larger Canvas

In this memoir Helen McLean creates a moving portrait of a woman driven to develop her talents as an artist, struggling against the illiberal social pressures of the Fifties while outwardly conforming to the roles she and her contemporaries are expected to perform. Set in Toronto, New York State, England, Calgary, rural Ontario and Italy, Details From a Larger Canvas  traces the growth and changes of an artist’s sensibility with language that is lucid and frequently poetic: words are as much …

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