Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (Review)

This novel is the fictionalized life story of Christina Olson, the woman depicted in the famous painting Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth.

Book Details:

Title: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
Publisher: William Morrow
Category: Adult Fiction, 320 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction / Historical
Published: February 21, 2017
Content Rating: G
Book Description:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

"Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden."

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

This edition includes a four-color reproduction of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World.

Purchase Links

My Review
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This novel is the fictionalized life story of Christina Olson, the woman depicted in the famous painting Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth. I love books that educate me, teach me about art and immerse me into a world wholly different than mine. The author certainly succeeded in doing this. I'm unaware of how much of what is true about Christina is explored in the novel but it's easy to see that the author must have well-researched the real people she writes about, in particular the artist Andrew Wyeth and his muse Christina Olson.

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth, 1948

The author uses a dual timeline starting from when Christina, aged forty-six, first meets Wyeth in 1939 when he was twenty-two, and then going back to 1896 to Christina's childhood. The story moves back and forth until we get to the point when he paints the above painting in 1948. Although we get to see the warm relationship that Wyeth shared with Christina as he pretty much used her house as his painting studio, most of the story is about Christina herself, told in the first person. It almost feels like I was reading her memoir.

What is striking about this novel is that the author truly grasps and brings alive the rural farm life Christina led in Cushing, Maine. And she creates a portrait of Christina as a strong-willed self-sacrificing woman who suffered a debilitating illness. Christina was stubborn enough never to use a wheelchair even if that meant she had to crawl and drag herself both indoors and outdoors to move around. By using the first person POV, we truly become immersed in Christina's world and how she saw her own life. We get to see her struggles with her illness, her duty to family and her heartbreak with her first love. Rural farm life, especially harsh in the winter, is already isolating enough but Christina lived with the added difficulty of no electricity or running water.

I was in awe of this woman who was content with this life even as she stubbornly refused to better her life and had to deal with its hardships. Several times I found myself doing research on the Internet to learn more about Christina, the painting and Andrew Wyeth. This is very much a character-driven novel and at times the mundane aspects of her simple life were depressing. Overall, this is a beautifully written novel that honors the life of the mysterious woman that seems to haunt one of America's famous twentieth century paintings.

Andrew Wyeth with Christina Olson, photo taken by Richard Meryman, author of
Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self- Portrait

To read more reviews, visit Christina Baker Kline's page on TLC Book Tours.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

About the Author:

Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives outside of New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Find out more about Kline at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Our museum has a fairly large Wyeth collection so I'm familiar with him and his work. I'm not familiar with her, though, so I look forward to this book.

    1. There's very little known information about her, but Kline manages to create a vivid portrayal of her.

  2. I've been a fan of Wyeth's work since seeing a print at a childhood friend's house many years ago. I need to read this one!

    1. I didn't know much about this artist until I read this book.

  3. I enjoy Kline's writing but for some reason hadn't heard of this book. Also a fan of Wyeth's paintings. You keep adding to my TBR list.

    1. I liked Orphan Train better storywise but this one is just as well-written and atmospheric.

  4. I hadn't heard of this painting before this book, but wow what a story behind it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  5. I really enjoy books that explore the stories behind art. What a life Christina must have lived, and it sounds to me like the author portrayed her fairly. I wonder if that was hard to stay objective in that regard...

    1. Yes, I do too. Which is what drew me to this book. I think the author did an excellent job in her creation of Christina's character.

  6. I thought this sounded interesting. I am glad that you really enjoyed it. I was familiar with the painting but had not given much thought to the history of it. Sounds like this brought the character to life.


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