Book Club: The Collector’s Apprentice

The Book Club at the Palmyra Community Center read The Collector’s Apprentice for our March meeting.  The book is about a woman living in France in the 1920’s who must reinvent herself after a scandal causes her family to lose most of their wealth and her father’s prized art collection.  She becomes friendly with the artistic crowd in Paris and meets a wealthy American who is there purchasing pieces for a museum that he plans to establish in Philadelphia.

We picked the book because we thought it would be interesting to read something set in this time period and location.  To our surprise, a large portion of the book takes place in our own backyard…Philadelphia. It didn’t take long to realize the wealthy American character was based on Albert Barnes, the eccentric art collector who was very particular about how the art should be displayed and who should have the right to view it.

One of the book club members had a lot of knowledge about the Barnes Museum and helped us identify characters in the book that were loosely based on real life people.  We were also surprised to learn that many of the events in the book did actually occur but the author took some liberties with the timing of the events to enhance the narrative.

I brought along a book from the library showcasing the art of the Barnes Foundation to the meeting and we were able to examine some of the artwork mentioned in the book.  We ended the meeting with a discussion about what type of art we like and talked about who had visited the Barnes at the original location and the new location.  I think I will be planning a trip to the Barnes soon to take a look at those paintings in person.

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The book club will be reading Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters White and Black, in a Young America by Catherine Kerrison for our next meeting at the Palmyra Community Center on April 17.