A Piece of the World
Book Review - A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
This book is about a painting by Andrew Wyeth entitled Christina's World. So before I begin my critique of the book, I think it is worth examining the painting first. I'd like to go through an exercise with you to "read" this painting. Consider the following questions:
- Tell me about the woman in this painting.
- What do you think the woman is thinking or doing?
- Tell me about the place in this painting.
- What is the woman's relationship to the place?
- What do you think is happening in this painting?
- What words would you use to describe the mood?
- If I tell you the woman who posed for this painting was 55 years old how does that change the way you think of this painting?
- What do you think might be the message or theme of this painting?
I encourage you to go through this exercise prior to reading the book and then consider how your view of the painting changes. Come back to these questions after you've completed the book and see how your answers differ. I can't think of a better way to illustrate the power of this book.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline tells the story of Christina Olson who posed for this painting as well as numerous other works by renowned painter Andrew Wyeth. The author jumps around in time piecing together Ms. Olson's life from her ancestors to the completion of the painting pictured above. Ms. Olson lived in the house pictured (located at Hathorn Point in Cushing, Maine) her entire life and it is now owned by Farnsworth Art Museum. It is open for tours during the summer months. Andrew Wyeth came to know Ms. Olson through his wife Betsy who was her neighbor. Andrew (Andy as Ms. Olson called him) invited himself into her home and eventually set up a studio in an upper floor bedroom. They were friends ever since. I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I'll leave it at that.
Beyond the painting, this book explores themes of love, loss, disability, friendship, stubbornness, and survival. The book was beautiful written and beautifully performed by Polly Stone on Audible. It brought together some of my favorite aspects of a good book: art and history. I hadn't known much about Andrew Wyeth prior to reading this book, besides recognizing a few of his more notable works. I identify a well-written piece of historical fiction by its ability to encourage me to research more about the characters. I think this is the best possible outcome of this genre. With this book, I began reading more about Andrew Wyeth and Christina Olson even before I finished reading it. I hope you're encouraged to learn more about them as well.
In the meantime, enjoy this Emmy-award winning interview with Andrew Wyeth which originally aired on CBS Sunday Morning in 1997.
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