Invisible River

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When Evie and her father say good-bye at the train station, they are both on their own for the first time since her mother's death. But Evie is not lonely for long. At art school in London, she is quickly caught up in colors and critiques, gallery visits and sketching expeditions. She finds fiercely loyal friends-Rob, pragmatic and pregnant; Bianca, dramatic and Italian; and Cecile, the sidelined ballerina-and stumbles tentatively toward a relationship with Zeb, a second-year ...

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Invisible River: A Novel

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Overview

When Evie and her father say good-bye at the train station, they are both on their own for the first time since her mother's death. But Evie is not lonely for long. At art school in London, she is quickly caught up in colors and critiques, gallery visits and sketching expeditions. She finds fiercely loyal friends-Rob, pragmatic and pregnant; Bianca, dramatic and Italian; and Cecile, the sidelined ballerina-and stumbles tentatively toward a relationship with Zeb, a second-year sculptor with hair blue-black like a crow.

But when her father arrives in the city, sour with alcohol and slumped on the doorstep of her new home, Evie must determine what she owes her past, and how it will shape the life, and the art, she's trying to create.

Gently and genuinely observed, written with painterly beauty, Invisible River is an unforgettable novel of the mysteries, desolations, and heart-soaring hopes of entering adulthood.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Scottish writer McEwen makes her American debut with her third novel, a treacly coming-of-age story. Eve has left her alcoholic father behind in Cornwall to study painting in London, where she befriends the flamboyant Bianca and the brooding Roberta, and sets her sights on a second-year sculpture student named Zeb. Eve struggles to find her artistic voice and suffers several scathing critiques by the school tutors, who tell her she's making "soufflé" when she should be cooking up "meat and potatoes." When Eve comes home from school one day to find her father passed out drunk on her apartment doorstep, she is saddled with both guilt at having left him to live on his own and anger at his intrusion into her new life. Her artwork starts to change as a result, but is no more warmly received. Instead of a story, McEwen gives readers a chronology of events, lackluster writing that seems more fitting for a high school drama, and a pile of melodrama. A story for a therapist, not a reader. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"[An] ethereal novel... McEwen makes good use of her own art training, portraying artists struggling to express their ideas, using vividly described colors that sometimes glow and glitter, in fiction that proves a visual feast." -Booklist

"[A] beautiful, tender novel... It's not surprising that Helena McEwen, who studied art in London, has a great eye for detail. I've seldom read descriptions of London as a beautiful city — maybe Dickens put paid to that — but in McEwen's hands it becomes wondrously so... It's a joy, in so cyncical a time, to find a book that celebrates unapologetic happiness." -Bookpage

"Told in a quiet voice full of artistry and color, this will appeal to fans of literary coming-of-age novels." - Library Journal

"Helena McEwen's coming-of-age tale is defiantly old-fashioned... Yet McEwen writes wich such conversational ease and displays such an artist's eye, that the novel rarely fails to charm. Who knew innocence could be so engaging?" -Financial Times

"Helena McEwen is an artist who brings a painter's eye to her fiction... In its unflinching juxtaposition of shadows and light, pain and happiness, Invisible River is a love story on several levels... Invisible River is about looking, seeing and understanding... an evocative reminder of how it feels to be young." -Guardian

 

Library Journal
Marking her U.S. debut, McEwan's third novel (after The Big House and Ghost Girl) narrates the richly colored journey of Evie, a budding painter who leaves her alcoholic father for the first time since her mother's death to go to an art school in London. Initially worried over how both will take the transition, Evie is quickly swept up in vibrant new friends, harsh art critiques, expeditions around the city, and an uncertain crush on a mysterious sculptor. After her father appears at her door, still drunk and unable to fend for himself, Evie finds herself caught between past and future. Evie's love for her father is strong, and her decision to stop taking care of him has heartbreaking consequences, both for Evie and for her paintings. VERDICT A quick read with an eclectic ensemble of characters told in a quiet voice full of artistry and color, this will appeal to fans of literary coming-of-age novels.—Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll., Pepper Pike, OH
Kirkus Reviews

The naïvely voiced, impressionistic tale of a young English art student's painful acquisition of wisdom.

In her U.S. debut, Scottish-based McEwen works hard at capturing her heroine Eve's youth, excitement and fixation with color by giving her a first-person, present-tense narration both choppy and poetic—"It is autumn and the city is lit by yellow trees"—which at times can be exhausting and at other times manages to deliver the emotional intensity of a young woman intuitively in touch with overwhelming feelings. Eve's mother drowned when the child was five, leaving her in the care of her father, who became an alcoholic. So when Eve can finally escape the family home in Cornwall to study art in London, she experiences relief and thrilling freedom. Soon she is swept up in city and student life: close female friendships; art exhibitions; and an attraction to a fellow-student, Zeb. But then her father turns up, drunk and beyond help, and although she lets him stay for a while, eventually, in an angry moment, she sends him away. Guilt follows and a powerful awareness of her father's despair, which concludes with the discovery of his body. Now Eve plunges into grief and depression but is saved by her friends, her creativity and her feelings for Zeb.

Banality and radiance combine oddly in a novel that achieves immediacy but risks claustrophobia.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608192663
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Helena McEwen grew up in Scotland and studied painting at Chelsea and Camberwell schools of art in London. She is the author of two highly acclaimed previous novels, The Big House and Ghost Girl. Invisible River marks her U.S. debut. McEwen lives in Scotland.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 17, 2011

    Beautiful word painting

    Evie is off to art school in London, leaving behind her widowed, alcoholic father. During the next year she does much soul searching as she deals with loss, love and learning to let go. Through it all, Evie is supported by her amazing circle of friends.

    Helena McEwen writes in color. There isn't a lot of story here but the word painting is exceptional. When it comes to beautiful imagery, Helena McEwen is a master.

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