Be Quiet

by Margaret Hollingsworth
ISBN: 0973083174

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A Review of: Be Quiet
by Linda Morra

Hollingsworth, an originally English-born author whose publication credits include In Confidence (1994) and Smiling Under Water (1989), turns her attention to the period of Carr's artistic life in France in her new novel, Be Quiet. The novel moves back and forth in time, from Carr's generation-including her possible encounter with Frances Hodgkins, the New Zealand artist, when they apparently both painted in Brittany in 1911-to that of the fictional character, Catherine Van Duren. Van Duren is a contemporary artist who is considered to be a "loose cannon" in the academic world and who is retiring from teaching art at a local university. The novel thus invites the reader to draw comparisons implicitly between Carr, Hodgkins and Van Duren.
The conclusion Hollingsworth makes serves as a warning for the kind of impediments the artist must face and overcome in order to succeed. Eventually, Carr circumvented those impediments by either relinquishing or neglecting all romantic, familial and work-related obligations in order to focus on painting. She was thus able to further her artistic career. Catherine, her contemporary foil in the novel, makes such calamitous errors as marrying Roger, a failed, pseudo anti-establishment artist; subsequently becoming pregnant with her daughter, Kit, who is an irresponsible, reckless and childish thirty-something adult; and retaining an untenured position at the university in spite of the fact that "she [had] applied for all the tenure track positions that had come up." Like Carr, she was outspoken, "a thorn in everyone's side," even though she "was the sole means of support for her family and had everything to lose by stepping out of line." Although no one within the academy doubts her "ability as an artist," Catherine's talents have been thwarted for years by her obligations to her daughter and to her work as an instructor. That she paints in a manner that is "freer, looser" when she temporarily frees herself from these constraints is curtailed a second time later in the novel, which concludes in the most cataclysmic terms. If even the less astute reader fails to grasp Hollingsworth's imperative that the artist must commit her life to her craft alone, the quasi-apocalyptic ending underscores the message thrice.

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