In the most successful sections of Be Quiet by Margaret Hollingsworth (Blue Lake), the author imagines Emily Carr’s six-week stay in Ste. Agathe, France in 1911, by writing the diary of Winifred Church. Carr has studied with Winifred’s husband, the celebrated artist Geoffrey Church; he has encouraged Carr to return and to study with the New Zealand artist Frances Hodgkins, perhaps because, as Winifred speculates, “he is a little frightened of her, as he is of all his exceptionally gifted pupils.”
Living as she does in the shadow of a great man, Winifred is the perfect narrator to introduce us to the politics of the art world at the time, and her descriptions of encounters with Emily Carr bring the artist to life.
However, running alongside Winifred’s narrative is a confusing story of a modern-day dysfunctional family, some of whom are artists and none of whom is as interesting as Emily or Frances.