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Posts tagged 'Art'

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

KlinePieceI really enjoyed this novel, as I did Kline’s last book, the wildly popular Orphan Train. As she did with Orphan Train, the author pays meticulous attention to historic detail, and she writes in an engaging writing style that makes her new book hard to put down.

The book focuses on the famous Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina’s World, one of the best known works of the 20th century and part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The inspiration for the painting was Christina Olson, who was born in 1893. She was Wyeth’s neighbor, and she was his muse. In fact, he claimed an upstairs room in her family’s farmhouse to do sketches for the painting, completing most of the final work there. In the painting, Christina’s face is turned away, inviting the viewer to wonder who she was.

Olson grew up on her family’s farm in the remote coastal town of Cushing, Maine. It was a bleak existence; the land had been in the family since 1743, and adjoining acreage had been sold off over the years as family fortunes dwindled. At the age of 3, Christina developed a high fever that left her legs damaged. A brilliant student, she was asked to continue her education so that she could take over as the school’s head teacher, but her father refused to let her. He forced his daughter to stay on the farm and do arduous farm chores despite her physical limitations. As a young woman, Christina was courted by a college man who ultimately broke her heart. But she fought her way through life, refusing to be a victim of her circumstances.

Nancy Picks  Historical Fiction  Artwork  Art


Alice Hoffman's The Marriage of Opposites

HoffmanMoOHoffman is the author of more than 30 works of fiction including The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her latest novel, The Marriage of Opposites, published in hardcover last summer, was just released in paperback. Of all her many works, this is my favorite.

The setting of this multigenerational family saga is the town of Charlotte Amalie on the very lush island of St Thomas. The time is the early 1800’s. Rachel Pomié, the central character, is a headstrong daughter of a Jewish family, prominent in their community of refugees who escaped the Spanish Inquisition. Rachel is smart, speaks her mind, and doesn’t like to follow rules.  She is married off to Isaac Petit, an elderly widower who already has three children; this merger of families will save her family’s business.  After her husband dies, his family sends Frederic, Isaac’s handsome young nephew from France, to save what is now their business and to decide what to do with Rachel and the children.  The relationship between Rachel and Frederic becomes a scandal, as they fall in love, have more children together, and marry.  (One of their children will become known as The Father of Impressionism, Camille Pisarro.) The Jewish elders refuse to recognize their marriage for some time, as the pair is related – though only through marriage. Rachel is sustained throughout by her dear maid and friend Adelle, and her daughter Jestine. 

For me,The Marriage of Opposites got off to a bit of a slow start, as the first four chapters cover a great deal of history and descriptions of time, place, and setting. But once the story was set, I couldn’t put the book down.  Hoffman masterfully blends fact and fiction, adding in love and romance, business and travel, plus a dash or two of mysticism that give fabulous texture to her storytelling without overpowering the story.

This is a pleasure to read, and it will be fabulous for book club discussion.

Romance  Nancy's Picks  Historical Fiction  Art


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