McLean, Helen 1927-

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McLEAN, Helen 1927-


Born 1927, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; married; husband's name Ross; children: three. Education: University of Toronto, B.A.; University of Calgary, M.A.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dundurn Press 2181 Queen St. East, Suite 301 Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E 1E5.


Journalist, artist, and writer. Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, columnist, 1950s; Albertan, art critic, 1960s.


Sketching from Memory: A Portrait of My Mother, Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Of All the Summers (novel), Women's Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

Details from a Larger Canvas: A Memoir, Dundurn Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Significant Things (novel), Dundurn Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

Contributor to Brick.


A Canadian journalist and painter, Helen McLean has written two autobiographical books, Sketching from Memory: A Portrait of My Mother and Details from a Larger Canvas: A Memoir.

In Sketching from Memory McLean attempts to recount her mother's life story in words and drawings, a task complicated by the fact that the story begins with her mother in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Seeking out the truth of her mother's story is difficult, but in presenting it, McLean also presents the story of her own childhood in Toronto. Coral Ann Howells in Canadian Literature called Sketching from Memory "as much autobiography, family history and social chronicle of life in Toronto in the 1930s and '40s as it is the mother's story."

McLean's mother was a foster child who married a farmer-turned-lawyer and whose deteriorating mental health left her daughter with conflicting emotions. Howells suggested that the "storytelling does effect a kind of reconciliation for the narrator at last." Susanne Day, writing in the Canadian Book Review Annual believed that McLean's "splendid word pictures are as vivid as her sketches" and judged the book to be a "tribute to a mother (and father) who managed to bequeath memories of a good life despite some very trying and troublesome times."

Details from a Larger Canvas tells McLean's story of how she became an artist. After spending a year in art school, training allowed by her parents only after she had completed a more sensible degree first, McLean settled down to married life and raising three children. Although she always wanted to devote her time to painting, it was not until she was fifty years old that she decided to leave the farm she shared with her husband and live on her own for a time to paint. The decision proved a good one. Her work has been exhibited throughout Canada and she is still happily married. Marnie Woodrow in the Toronto Globe and Mail described Details from a Larger Canvas as "a quiet parable about the importance of making room for what matters to the soul."



Canadian Book Review Annual, Volume 275, 1994, Susanne Day, review of Sketching from Memory: A Portrait of My Mother, p. 70.

Canadian Literature, Volume 68, 1997, Coral Ann Howells, review of Sketching from Memory, pp. 183-185.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 12, 2001, Marnie Woodrow, review of Details from a Larger Canvas: A Memoir, p. D9.*

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McLean, Helen 1927-

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