The Ecliptic

The Ecliptic. 2016.

A novel by Benjamin Wood.

Imagine an idyllic island off the coast of Turkey.

Nestled in the wooded hills, with a splendid view of the ocean, is a secret refuge for artists who have burned out or lost their way. There is no map to help you find it, there are no adverts for its services. Word of mouth from those who’ve been is the only way to discover it. Nor can one can one buy their way in. The costs for each student are borne by the recommending artist and paid for from afar. The refugees come with little more than the smouldering coals of their once bright passion. They take new names to hide who they’ve been – and some have been the toast of the world. They will stay here, in private rooms amidst a community of like souls, fostering their vision and talent in private studios, leaving only when they re-create themselves and take their art to the next level.

The story belongs to Elspeth Conroy, a painter whose early work dazzled London but left her anxious and full of self-doubt. At the colony, she is Knell, and old friends with several long time residents, each inching, over the course of decades, toward their next, great work. Knell’s own progress toward a truly revolutionary work is interrupted when Fullerton, a very young and somewhat abrasive artist, arrives and has trouble fitting in. Her attempt to welcome and mother him leads to revelations that make her question her understanding of the colony—Is it too good to be true—and of herself.

The Ecliptic presses into the anxiety, self-doubt, and odd sense of duty that can accompany and hinder creative work, especially after one has been built up by the praise of strangers. It calls to mind the adage, Whereever you go, there you are,and revisits the importance of accepting and caring for oneself as more than a crucible for art.