A Piece of the World

A Piece of the World

A Novel

Book - 2017
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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. Author 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.
Publisher: New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2017]
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062356260
Branch Call Number: FIC Kline C
Characteristics: 309 pages, 1 unnumbered leaf of plates : color illustration ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Combing both fact and fiction, this is a touching story that brings to life the story behind the Andrew Wyeth painting “Christina’s World”, and Christina Olson, the woman who inspired it.

Set on a remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine, this story brings to life the story of Christina Olson, the figure in the Andrew Wyeth painting “Christina’s World”.

Recommended by Sue, Cedarville Community Library: "A successful historical fiction will compel me to learn more about the subject. This did just that, and I couldn’t put it down."

Recommended by Sharon, Outreach Services: "If you love art, New England, or historical fiction, you’ll love this book!"


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DorisWaggoner
Apr 06, 2019

This book is not "plotless" as some reviewers state. Rather, it's very character-driven. And the main characters are wonderful. Maybe, definitely, not perfect. But gorgeously described. You can see them all in your mind's eye, and once seen, you'll never forget them. Christina's early childhood is almost perfect, as she's highly observant, brilliant, and loves the world she was born into. As with many children living in isolated circumstances, her family of brothers is important to her. So are books, and nature, and her daydreams. She wants to go to university, but nobody in her family has, and as the only girl in her family, her rather mysterious father expects--demands--that she quit school to help her mother. She's broken hearted, wanting to be a teacher. Her teacher's broken hearted too, knowing how brilliant she is, and that the gift of Emily Dickinson's poems will not make up for the lack of schooling. Christina's world narrows to housework, taking care of her family, especially as her few school friends marry and have babies, and her father becomes ill and progressively disabled. He complains a lot more about his disabilities than she does about hers. When she's about 20, summer folks from Boston bring a man whom she falls in love with, but after he marries someone else, no one else ever brings love into this loving woman's heart. Except, in an odd way, the painter Andrew Wyeth, another Boston summer visitor, much younger than Christina, who understands her because of his own disability. She becomes his muse, they become real friends, and he paints her many times. The famous "Christina's World" is his tribute to her. This historical novel is a "what might her life have been like" sort of book, well researched and well imagined.

sclibrary_justin Feb 26, 2019

This book pulls you into the life of a woman who never saw much more of the world than that surrounded by the walls of her childhood home. Despite its limited setting, you get a sense of how expansive her inner life was. A quick, but engaging read.

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firebird770
Feb 23, 2019

Story based on a painting done by famous painter, Andrew Wyett. When reading, I realized the love between a brother for his sister and it caused me to shed a few tears for my own brother. The main character, Christina Olson, when just a young girl becomes afflicted with a degenerative nerve disorder and is destined to live out her life caring for others. The story evolves from her childhood to later years and those loved ones coming in and out as the years go by. Living physically separated and apart from outsiders, the painter finds Christina's World. This place- rural Maine, is the entire world to Christina. Story is based on truth. Christina was a real person. Like the landscape around her, she perseveres despite her crippling disease. Andrew Wyeth, the painter got to know Christina in 1939. The painting of Christina's World is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Farnsworth Museum is in Rockland, Maine. Christina's homestead is in Cushing, Maine.

p
peacebenow
Feb 20, 2019

While reading this this book I did feel I was a piece of Christina's world. Kline makes Christina's life and feelings come alive on the pages. I'd like to visit the Farnsworth museum and then to Rockland. I enjoyed learning of Christina's relationships w/ other people in her circle and watch her grow despite set backs and physical difficulties. Her determination seemingly comes from past life time. Betsy and Andrew Wyeth sometimes see Christina better or in ways she doesn't see herself. They enter her life almost w/o permission but they become some of Christina's and Alvaro's close friends.

k
kclifford725
Jan 07, 2019

An interesting fictional account of the story behind the famous “Christina’s World” painting. The story alternates between flashbacks to youth and current time of the painting’s subject, Christina Olson. A little slow to develop in the middle, but an interesting tale which had me researching more about the painter Wyeth and the Olson house after reading.

r
ryner
Sep 11, 2018

With extensive research and a dash of literary license, Kline illustrates the difficult life of the subject of Andrew Wyeth's memorable painting, Christina's World. I've a fondness for "the story behind the art" novels, whether real, embellished or imagined. This was at once a quick, engaging, infuriating and inspiring read. Recommended!

e
eappelbaum
Aug 06, 2018

I admired the book. I agree with another author, Nathan Hill, quoted on the following website: "This is a novel that does what Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting does: it renders a whole universe of love and longing inside a seemingly simple scene."

Author's website: http://christinabakerkline.com/novels/a-piece-of-the-world/

How much of the story is true? See https://www.bookclubgirl.com/book_club_girl/2017/02/behind-a-piece-of-the-world.html

https://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/03/the-work-of-recreating-christinas-world/

Picture of brother mentioned on p. 132 is The Oil Lamp
http://www.artnet.com/artists/andrew-wyeth/the-oil-lamp-eUfK2CrcaJ5E7dqWOKydiQ2

Picture p. 136, Christina Olson, can be seen at
http://wyeth.site.seattleartmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2017/08/ChristinaOlson_RGB_1080px.jpg

The original is at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Famous picture Christina's World is at the Museum of Modern Art. The book has a reproduction at the end, but this website is a better reproduction; click on the picture and listen to the audio.
https://www.moma.org/collection/works/78455. Notice how you see each blade of grass.

This article discusses how physicians view the painting:
https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/journalofhumanitiesinrehabilitation/2017/10/17/inside-christinas-world/

P. 173 mentions a story about a woman trapped behind wallpaper. I believe this is The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Both books are sympathetic portraits of women who are circumscribed by patriarchal society.

f
fangger
Jul 02, 2018

This story made me sad for Christina and her brother Al, but it drew me in and I felt like a part of their lives. I would definitely recommend this book. It reminded me of summer trips to see my grandmother in rural P.E.I. before they had electricity or indoor plumbing. My uncle lived with and took care of my grandmother - almost imprisoned there, much like Al, as she couldn’t live on her own. A beautiful read.

s
sgcf
Jun 26, 2018

Using the famous Andrew Wyeth painting "Christina’s World", Kline successfully merges some known facts with fiction to imagine the life of Christina Olson. The characters are fully developed and real, and the pace somewhat slower and more strenuous - the way farm life was in the early and mid-20th century. An engaging read.

k_t Jun 26, 2018

A compelling read about rural Maine in the early 21st century. Based on a true story of an artist and his muse. Although Christina's life wasn't particularly 'exciting', it was a really interesting read and I enjoyed the way it was written. Recommended to historical fiction fans.

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firebird770
Feb 23, 2019

Christina's words; "I feel the way I do when I lose something - a spool of thread, say - and search for it everywhere, only to discover it in an obvious place, like on the sideboard under the cloth.
Al says, " I let myself be kept ". then Christina responds "You felt sorry for me". Al - "It wasn't that. I made a choice".
She remembers back to words of her Grandmother Mamey telling her; "There are many ways to love and to be loved".

b
behere
Jun 07, 2017

"When you live on a farm, everyone is uncomfortable much of the time." p 108

b
behere
Jun 07, 2017

“Intensity—painting emotion into objects—is the only thing I care about.” quote of Andrew. p 97

b
behere
Jun 07, 2017

"I read once that the act of observing changes the nature of what is observed. That is certainly true for Al and me. We are more attuned to the beauty of this old house, with its familiar corners, when Andy is here." p 94

b
behere
Jun 07, 2017

On how people see death: "...the places we go in our minds to find comfort have little to do with where our bodies go." p 88.

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