Girl with a Pearl Earring

Having no previous knowledge about Johannes Vermeer, and always open to learning about art history, I must say I enjoyed this book immensely. Tracy Chevalier, the author, did a wonderful job, weaving words together to give the reader a sense of how to appreciate art and a glimpse into the thought process of an artist. I knew nothing about Vermeer before I read this book and now I want to learn more.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a book about a real life artist, Johannes Vermeer, and a fictional character, a young girl named Griet, who ends up working in Vermeer's house as a maid when her father suffers the loss of his eyesight from a work accident and can no longer earn for the family. The author suggests early on in the novel that Griet is not like any other teenager and processes things a bit differently, like cutting up vegetables for dinner and arranging them in a circle according to their colors, before tossing them into the pot.

Griet leaves her known world for an uncertain and unknown one and is thrust into a completely different life, having to learn things the hard way, being worked to the bone as a maid, and finding herself unavoidably attracted to her master, Vermeer, and his paintings. She begins to clean his studio, learns how to mix paints and becomes the inspiration for one of his most famous paintings.

It was a well written book and the author's description of the stark differences between Griet's family life and that of Vermeer's seemed to reflect accurately the way of life during those times. There were some obvious gaps in the story—the quarantine and the sister dying and the brother's sudden disappearance, to name a few—but it painted (pardon the pun) a realistic picture of the life of an artist and even the mundane business side of that world.  The characters seemed developed enough to give one the feeling of the tension and drama they created when thrown together in different circumstances. Vermeer, himself, is fairly silent in this narrative, and most of his verbal interactions seem to be more with Griet towards the end of the novel.  The fact that he was in a lot of debt when he died was downplayed a bit but given that there is not a lot that is known about Vermeer, the novel produced the right amount of information to give one a grasp of Vermeer's life.

It was an easy read and I enjoyed learning more about art history.  10 books down and 40 more to go before the end of the year. I'd better get crackin'!


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