Friday, January 2, 2009

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This is one of those rare books that I was sad to see come to an end. However, there really isn't anything else that could be added to the story. I was hooked from the very first page to the very last page. It is historical fiction at it's best. For me the mark of a good book is one that keeps me interested and makes me want to know more -- about historical figures, a particular time period, etc. In this case, I wanted to know more about 17th century Delft. I love the idea of this book. The author, Tracy Chevalier, is fascinated by the girl in the famous Vermeer painting and begins to wonder what her life was actually like. Since little evidence exists, she decided to create a past for her. The author evokes a very realistic setting for this young girl.

Griet is sixteen years old when she goes to work as a maid in the famous artist's home. Though the two families lived only miles away from each other, they couldn't have been more different. Griet comes from a working class Protestant family. Her father has been forced into retirement after an explosion in his tile painting factory. Griet's brother has been apprenticed out, and she must be relied upon to bring money into the home.

On the other hand, the Vermeers are Catholic and relatively wealthy. He lives with his wife, his mother and their children. They end up having eleven children. Vermeer's paintings are the main source of the family's income and he is notoriously slow in completing paintings. This is due to his perfectionism and not to laziness.

Griet is unhappy in her new position because she misses her family and everything is so different. Vermeer's wife also makes things difficult for Griet. Eventually, Griet secretly sits for a painting which sets into motion a series of events that will change her life drastically.

I really enjoyed this book and plan on watching the film version next week with my book club. The edition I read includes 9 full color paintings by Vermeer. It was nice to be able to look at the paintings as I read about the artist and his world.


Nymeth said...

I really want to revisit this book soon. I absolutely loved it, but it's been years. I loved the movie too, actually. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Lisa said...

nymeth, there's so much more to the book than you can really put into one post. I agree that it is probably a book that deserves to be reread periodically.

Danielle said...

This is one I really enjoyed as well. I've read it twice! I think I've read all Tracy Chevalier's books except her most recent. It seems she's due out with another sometime soon, too.

Jill said...

This was a great book - I think I read it in two sittings.

Happy New Year!!
Jill =)

Sarah said...

I haven't read this yet, but am looking forward to it.

I can recommend Chevalier's latest book, Burning Bright, which follows two families in London who live in the same neighborhood as William Blake.

Lisa said...

danielle, this is the only book of hers I've read so far. I do have one of her other books though.

jill, it was great, wasn't it?

sarah, that one sounds really good. I'll have to look for it.

Tara said...

I really liked this book, and enjoyed the movie as well. I'd like to re-read it someday. It was pretty thrilling to see some of Vermeer's work in Amsterdam, sadly I didn't travel to see this painting.

JoAnn said...

I really liked this book and Falling Angels, too! Thanks for reminding me about the film - I just added it to my Netflix queue.

Lisa said...

tara, wow I'm sure it was thrilling. I'm not much of an art buff, but after reading the book, I'd love to see some of his paintings in person.

joann, I'll have to look for Falling Angels. I'm excited about seeing the movie, too.

Anonymous said...

i really love this book because it is really intersting and i am even going to do a presentation on it for something i have to do in year 13