“WRITERS & LOVERS:  A NOVEL” by Lily King; Grove Press, 2020; 324 pages, $27.


Writing is a solitary effort. It’s hard work, often with little payoff. So the last thing a struggling novelist wants to hear are her snarky landlord’s dismissive words: “I just find it extraordinary that you think you have something to say.”

Casey Peabody is a 31-year-old single woman swamped with debt, working double shifts as a waitress in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and living in a smelly, converted potting shed. She’s been trying to write a novel for the past six years with little progress. Could her life be any more messed up? Yes, it could. Casey is also romantically involved with two unlikely men, wrestling with her own anxieties and self-doubts, and worried about a lump under her arm.  And her landlord is a jerk.

“Writers & Lovers” is Lily King’s fourth novel. She is the best-selling and award-winning author of “Euphoria.” Her portrayal of writers and lovers, men and women, is riveting for its vivid imagery and wholly convincing characters and situations, blended with humor, sadness, uncertainty, emotion and the truth that the happiness in people’s lives can sometimes be credited to simple good fortune.

Casey painfully knows that the hardest thing about writing is actually writing, and it’s just as hard to decide between her two lovers — the passionate and poor poet or the comfortable and successful novelist. Things actually do get worse for her, but then a few unexpected breaks come her way — she might really finish the novel, and her conflicted feelings about herself, her abilities, her lovers and her future achieve hopeful clarity.

Casey is a good woman, despite her fears and bad decisions, surprised by her own resilience, determination and good luck. This won’t be an easy journey for her, and her landlord is still a jerk.


“AT FIRST LIGHT: TWO CENTURIES OF MAINE ARTISTS, THEIR HOMES AND STUDIOS” by Anne Collins Goodyear, Frank H. Goodyear, and Michael Komanecky; Rizzoli Electa, 2019; 239 pages, $55


To commemorate Maine’s bicentennial (1820-2020), publications are loaded with stories about that fascinating 200-year history. One of the most unique pieces, however, is “At First Light,” a magnificent art-history book featuring 26 Maine artists covering these two centuries.

The three authors are well known in Maine’s art museum community. Anne and Frank Goodyear are co-directors of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, and Michael Komanecky is the chief curator at the Farnsworth Arm Museum in Rockland. They have selected 21 men and five women to represent Maine’s art world bicentennial — showcasing their talent, experience, medium,and contributions.

They’ve applied an original approach to the project. Each chapter features an artist, with a short biography of their Maine connection and art work (painting, sculpture, photography, textiles), as well as beautiful color photographs of their still-existing homes and studios, locations that provided inspiration and imagination. Some artists will be familiar, like Winslow Homer, the three Wyeths and Robert Indiana. Others will be less known, but are equally important to Maine’s art history.

For example, Jonathan King (1768-1847) of Blue Hill was a noted painter, but he was also an accomplished scientist, botanist, educator and surveyor. Charles Herbert Woodbury (1864-1940) of Ogunquit was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineer and marine artist with a refreshing outlook: “Art is psychology, not science. You must know what you see, why you see and what is worth seeing.” Falmouth painter David Driskell (1931-2020) also has a healthy perspective: “Two worlds merge in my works: one of sight, the other of vision.”

Medium represented include oils on canvas, masonite, hardboard and linen, watercolors, tempuras, charcoal, pencil, acrylics, stone, paper, collage, woodblock, scrap wood, photographs, even crayon on paper. This is a polished product, informative and entertaining.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

Comments are not available on this story.