Year 8, Book 29

29. The Center of the World by Thomas Van Essen

The Center of the World is a sweeping tale about a fictional painting of the same name by J.M.W. Turner depicting an erotic scene of Helen of Troy. The story shifts back and forth from 19th century England where we witness the creation of the painting and present day New England where a married man bored with his life stumbles across it hidden away in his family’s lake house. The existence of the painting has been kept secret since its creation, but rumors of it have intrigued many people over the years including an art collector/dealer who sets his sights on finding it.

I really enjoyed this novel and suspect that anyone who has a love of art or background in art history would appreciate it even more than I did. I did find it a little ridiculous how people’s lives were completely taken over by this painting, but I suppose it is a commentary on the power of art in our lives. There is no actual painting so there’s nothing to actually see, but I wish I could have seen it. Despite the many descriptions of it throughout the book I had a hard time visualizing what it would have looked like. I give it a 7 out of 10.

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