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.