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A Piece of the World Hardcover – 23 Mar 2017
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‘A moving portrait of a woman in search of autonomy and purpose in her life’ SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE
‘The novel evokes the sombre grace of those paintings in language as earnest and straightforward as Wyeth’s brush strokes, laying out a story as uncomplicated as his composition’ NEW YORK TIMES
‘A transporting peek behind the canvas’ NEW YORK MAGAZINE
‘A graceful, moving and powerful demonstration of what can happen when a fearless literary imagination combines with an inexhaustible curiosity about the past and the human heart: a feat of time travel, a bravura improvisation on the theme of art history, a wonderful story that seems to have been waiting, all this time, for Christina Baker Kline to come along and tell it’ MICHAEL CHABON
‘Christina Baker Kline writes about home and place with wisdom and tenderness, but most of all she writes about Christina Olson with compassion, empathy and resounding admiration. This is an inspiring, haunting, powerful novel’ HELEN SEDGWICK, author of The Comet Seekers
‘An affecting and memorable novel… unexpected and bleakly beautiful world. I thought it explored the nature of art and inspiration in a fascinating way, whilst also posing profound questions about what endures and what proves transitory; about the roles we choose and those which are forced upon us’ MATTHEW PLAMPIN, author of Will & Tom
‘With remarkable precision and compassion, A PIECE OF THE WORLD transports us to a mid-century farmhouse on the coast of Maine … Christina Baker Kline has accomplished something grand’ NATHAN HILL, author of The Nix
‘Tender, tragic, A PIECE OF THE WORLD is a fascinating exploration of the life lived inside that house at the top of the hill’ LILY KING
‘Painterly, sensuous, and sympathetic’ KIRKUS REVIEWS
‘A pure, powerful story of suffering met with a fight’ O Magazine (The Oprah Magazine)
‘Insightful, evocative prose brings Christina’s singular perspective and indomitable spirit to life’ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
From the Back Cover
"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 paintings of the twentieth century, Christina's World.
As she did in her beloved 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, Kline vividly imagines her life--with her complicated relationship to her family and her past, and her 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 text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product description
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Christina Olson had labels following her: a sick child, the dutiful daughter, the spinster. I'm sure there are other "colorful" labels that I can put on her but one thing about this woman, and her seemingly sad existence were her choices (or lack thereof) that led up to a fateful meeting with artist Andrew Wyeth.
In our life, we demand a few things, and one of them is to be known. It doesn't necessarily have to be to the world, but to be known to the people around us. In our everyday, we put up fences around ourselves, and pretend we're better than we believe, and cast on different roles to change the labels people already had assigned us. What if someone takes all of our pretentiousness, or looks past at our ordinary and sees us. Sees us the way we can only hope to be. And in Andrew, Christina becomes one thing - a story; a painting with layers of wisdom, hurts, regrets, suffering. Her life isn't a blank canvas as much as it's a history lesson.
I've never read any of Christina Baker Kline's work but after this, I'm going to pick up a few more. This was moving, and in her descriptions, I was there at the farm, looking on at the sky, the dilapidated house, the sea, the woman with her back turned to me. In her words, I walk into the Olson home, see the lessons written in pictures, in old chests, in seashells, and forget about the labels I put on this woman in the famous painting, but take in all that is her. Through both Kline and Wyeth's eyes, Christina is not only seen and known, but we, the reader and art patrons, are given a glimpse and a piece of (her) world.
Christina Olson is born and lives her entire life in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. When she was young, the house was full of her brothers, her parents and her grandmother. It was a working farm and there were always chores to be done and mischief to get into with her brothers. When she was about 10, she got very sick and was never able to walk well again. Even though her disease was never diagnosed in the book, it appeared to be some type of muscular weakness that progressively got worse. She loved school but when she got to 8th grade, her parents decided that it was time for her to stay home and help with the house. With no electricity or running water, her work was difficult and tedious. When Christina is much older and only she and her brother remain at the farmhouse, which is now run down. Andrew Wyeth, the famous American painter comes to town to visit friends and decided that he want to paint at the farm house. He spends the next 20+ summers painting at the farmhouse in Cushing Maine and the farmhouse and Christine become his muse. She becomes his model for his famous painting "Christina's World".
This book is so well written and tells a story about someone that I never knew existed despite the fact that I have seen the painting. Christina's life was centered on her family and her farmhouse and her life of chores despite the constant pain she was in. She was a wonderful well written character and one that I won't soon forget.
I was very excited to read this book because the marriage of art and reading is special for me. "The Goldfinch" is a great example of this melding of creativity. Once again, the writing sustains me. This is my first Christina Baker Kline book and I am not disappointed. As the protagonist, Christina, the "girl" in Andrew Wyeth's famous painting, clutches your heart. At the same time, you want to slap her out of her self pity while hugging and holding her. Rarely do I experience such empathy for a character in a book. The method of back and forth in time is an interesting feature, with Wyeth in and out. Of course, the painting reveal is the moment of truth. A bit "Oprahesque," a bit long at times, still a very well written, enjoyable book to read.
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