Gift of the Loon
Gift of the Loon is the story of a woman ahead of her time. Set in the early twentieth century, Margaret Harrison wants to be an artist—a difficult proposition for a woman at a time when a woman’s place was in the home. Eschewing the burdens of marriage and children to become an accomplished painter, Margaret must not only go against society’s norms and the wishes of her family, she must also overcome imposter syndrome. Amid the pain and loss of World War One, Maggie revels in the avant-garde forms of expression emerging in the art world, including Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, and Fauvism.
When she meets artist, Tom Thomson while painting on the French River, her life is forever changed. And when he betrays her in a way she could never have anticipated, she has to find a way to once again see the joy in life. On her journey, Maggie discovers a truth about her choices that changes the way she sees herself and her relationship with the world.
Through Maggie, the reader is immersed in art, travel, nature, romance, painting, and adventure. Gift of the Loon is multilayered, exploring themes of self-discovery, the roles of women, challenging society’s norms, our relationships with art and nature, and the development of Canada’s independent artistic vision. Ultimately, the story asks the question: How do you define success? Is success defined by someone else's standard of what we should achieve? Or, do we give ourselves permission to determine what success is for us?
Gillian Andrews is, like the heroine of Gift of the Loon, primarily a woman attempting to find her way in her chosen field. She has long questioned what it means to be a successful writer in the world of social media, where it is almost impossible not to get lost in the crowd.
Gillian has extensively studied the history of the time period in which the book is set (1911—1917), including the art scene of the day. Her son once showed her a photograph from the early 1900s of a young woman painting while standing at the end of a dock. As soon as Gillian saw the image, she was inspired to write the unknown artist’s story.
Gillian envisioned the painter as a younger version of Margaret Harrison, a character in her first novel, River of the Stick Wavers, set in 1963, when Maggie is seventy years old. She began to wonder how the young woman managed to become an artist during a time when a woman's place was in the home.
An experienced canoeist and hiker, Gillian has visited the locations where Gift of the Loon takes place to experience their natural beauty firsthand. Stopping at nothing to research her writing, Gillian has even taken art classes to gain an understanding of what it feels like to hold a paint brush, how to use a palette knife, and to experiment with colour.
Gillian Andrews lives in Chatham, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two children, who are both also writers.
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