La Jeune fille à la perle By Tracy Chevalier

A reread. 4.5 Stars!

Griet had not been told that she is to become the painter Vermeer’s maid, her mother only revealing the job to her after the Vermeer’s had already been, inspected Griet, and left. Griet has no say in the matter. Her father was a tile painter before a tragic accident, in which a kiln explosion claimed his eyes and trade. The family who were already struggling, treading water, now find themselves slowly slipping beneath the surface.

Her father explains to Griet that she is to be a maid for the famous painter Vermeer. Cleaning his studio will be one of her main tasks. It is 1664, in the city of Delft, Holland. Griet has been brought up a protestant but the Vermeer’s are catholic and Griet wonders how life will change and what differences she will find in a Catholic household.

The first time she sees the painting that Vermeer is currently working on, she is struck with awe. She has never seen anything like it in her life before. On the Sunday that she has free and returns to spend with her family she describes the painting for her father.

These Sunday visits are soon taken from Griet as the area in which her family live is quarantined with word spreading that the plague has surfaced in the vicinity.

She finds out from Pieter, the son of the butcher where she purchases the meat, that her parents are well but that her sister Agnes has taken ill. Pieter is a cheerful gregarious chap and falls for Griet. He does not hide his feelings and makes his intentions known to Griet. Griet tells him that she is only seventeen and has no feelings for him, however this does not dissuade Pieter.

Griet’s parents decide, with Pieter being the son of a butcher, that he is a good match for Griet and invite him for dinner. Griet feels that she is helping the family by playing her role in securing their future, and a marriage could lead them out of penury. However, she is doing this out of family duty and harbours no feelings for Pieter other than friendship.

One day Pieter tells Griet that Vermeer had a child with one of the maids in his painting. Alarmingly she asks him what happened to the maid. He answers her with, “What happens to girls like that?”.

Before the quarantine is lifted Griet receives the terrible news that her sister has passed. Griet is grief-stricken.

At first Griet barely sees Vermeer. He is nearly always locked away in his studio studiously painting.
One morning the baker’s daughter is ill and Vermeer asks Griet to stand in for her in a painting he is working on. From this day on, Griet and Vermeer grow closer. Vermeer starts showing Griet how a painting is created from scratch. Griet, is utterly entranced. She has never seen a painting being painted, never met a master painter before. Her feelings start to grow stronger for Vermeer with each passing day. Griet shows an unusual talent for colour and arrangement and Vermeer is quietly surprised and happy.

Vermeer then teaches her how to mix paints but as she grows closer to Vermeer, she becomes aware that all this can be taken away from her in an instant. Vermeer’s wife knows nothing of this work Griet is doing for him.

Griet becomes used to this new way of life and it is not until Maertge, the eldest daughter, tells her that she is going to be moved from the attic, where she mixes the paints, back to the cellar, that she realises what she will be missing.

“I slowed my pace. Years of hauling water, wringing out clothes, scrubbing floors, emptying chamberpots, with no chance of beauty or colour or light in my life, stretched before me like a landscape of flat land, where a long way off the sea is visible but can never be reached. If I could not work with the colours, if I could not be near him, I did not know how I could continue to work in that house”.

While Griet has been working at the Vermeer’s household she has picked up an unwarranted admirer. A powerful, and rich admirer. He is Vermeer’s patron van Ruijven and he has his eyes set on Griet.

Although Vermeer is a famous painter, the household is in debt. Vermeer’s extreme slowness in painting leaves him with only a few paintings to sell each year. So, when his patron van Ruijven requests that he paint Griet, Vermeer has little choice but to comply.

Griet is trapped, she does not want to sit for the painting, but Pieter sums up her situation in a sentence,

“But you have little power of what happens to you”.

The painting of Griet has an almost pornographic taboo feel to it. It feels as if lines have been crossed and that boundaries have been broken.

There is no illusion that Griet thinks she is in love with Vermeer. Griet is seventeen and naïve, apart from Pieter she has never been courted by a man and is blithely unaware of her beauty. When Vermeer sees Griet with her hair down, freed from the cap that has always remained on her head. He realises that he may be falling in love himself. There is always a sexual tension, almost like a charge of electricity, between the two. But will this tension result in action? And if the two do engage in a clandestine affair whare does that leave Griet? What hope is there for her? She is placed in an impossible situation with no positive outcome in sight.

This novel makes the reader think about the relationship between master and servant. How Griet, only seventeen and very naïve, is caught up in the grey area that exists between the two roles. She sways back and forth like a ship in a storm, one minute reminded of her humble life while working on the household tasks, then a completely different world, mixing colours and helping Vermeer with his painting. Griet’s place in the Vermeer household is never secure, she seems to be always teetering of the verge of being thrown out with Vermeer himself the only tether keeping her safe.

How is Griet going to get herself out of this situation, and is she more than just the naïve country maid that everybody thinks she is?

This was a reread for me and it has lost nothing in the years since I read it. Not much is known about Vermeer during these years, so Chevalier had a great deal of license to play around with, and she has done a wonderful job, creating a believable and enjoyable novel. 4.5 Stars. 2070417948 Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest



I have read this book so many times. And even after re-reading this book so many times, it is and will always remain one of my favourite books, a story that is evergreen and has such an emotional story worth retelling.

Tracy Chevalier has been inspired by the artwork of Johannes Vermeer, and his most famous painting, the Girl with a Pearl Earring, that she decided to write a story of what she believes might have happened behind that painting. For me, when looking at paintings, this is one of the things that cross my mind – what is the actual story behind it, what was the relationship between the painter and the people on the painting, what were they all thinking and what did their lives look like… In this book, we are able to enter this world, where we see a story of what might have happened here, and this story is a wonderful experience.

This is a story about Griet’s life. Griet lives in a house with her poor family, a blind dad who worked all his life to gather a bit of money for them, and a mother that always fought for the family. With their money running low, Griet has to go and work as a maid in the house of Vermeer, who is a famous painter. Even though quite young, Griet quickly knows her tasks, to iron, to cook, to grab groceries from the market, and the most important bit – to stay out of everyone’s way and do her job.

In the house, things are not easy. Griet is not treated with respect, her family is worried about her, the plague kills her sister and the butcher’s boy wants to marry her. Griet doesn’t feel anything for this boy, but having meat on the table every day for her and her family is too big of an advantage to be just thrown away. I personally never liked the butcher boy, because he knew very well what his advantage was, and he kept reminding Griet how she depends on him to feed her family.


‘’Her words surprised me, but when I looked in her eyes and saw there the hunger for meat that a butcher’s son could provide, I understood why she had set aside her pride.’’

But Griet has a secret crush on Mr. Vermeer, and a great admiration for his work. And Mr. Vermeer notices Griet’s curiosity and gives her tasks around the studio, which in the end, results in him painting her. Griet gets to be involved in his world, learning what he does, and working for him in secret, while his wife is bearing another child of his. Even though Griet secretly feels like she is betraying the wife, she can’t help but feel joj when Vermeer pays attention to her.

‘’ The clothes soaking in the kitchen went cold, the water grey. Tanneke clattered in the kitchen, the girls shouted outside, and we behind closed door sat and looked at each other. And he painted.’’

Now, in the 21st century, it is normal for ladies to pose, and be painted, but in that time, it was a disgrace for a maid to be painted. Men didn’t have the respect towards women as they do now (some of them). And when Griet finds herself being painted, she knows the consequences, but as a maid, she has no voice to object. She knows this quite well.

In the end, the story is very powerful and heartwarming. While we read about how Griet sees and thinks, we will start to love her, watch her grow, and learn so much. I am forever grateful I have found this book.

I have read the 20th Anniversary Edition of this amazing book, which was kindly sent to me by the publishers, The Borough Press, and Love Reading UK, in exchange for my honest review.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest 2070417948 Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier was an interesting historical fiction concept!

It was extremely cleverly how the author created Griet as the protagonist, maid and model for the famous painting 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. No one knows who the models were for any of Vermeer's paintings. So, I applaud this author's imaginative use of creating a story around the Master Painter's exquisite painting.

Forced by her parents to become a maid to the Vermeer household, Griet is saddened to learn of the assignment. Hearing the news that she will reside with them and only be allowed to return home to her own family on Sunday's is heart wrenching for her. Regardless of her feelings, she diligently begins preforming her assigned duties of boiling, scrubbing, wringing, hanging and ironing the unmanageable heaps of laundry from this large and growing family. While the enormous pots of water are set on the fire to boil to begin the tedious laundering process, Griet often gets an early start on other assigned duties so no time is wasted during her long and exhausting days.

However, Griet's most important duty as a maid in this household is the privilege of cleaning Vermeer's upstairs studio. To enter the artist's studio is considered an honor bestowed on few as the painter does not even allow his wife, Catharina, the freedom to enter. In cleaning the studio Griet is instructed that it is to remain exactly as the artist left it the previous day. If an item is touched to dust under it, it must be returned exactly as it was found. Failure to follow the rules set by the painter concerning his studio will cause her to be dismissed and sent away.

Because Griet is allowed to enter Vermeer's studio, Catharina shows an immediate and obvious dislike for her. Her dislike transitions to jealousy and mistrust when the maid is asked by the painter to assist him in his studio attic for the process of grinding stones to create the colors for paints he plans to use. There seems to be an unspoken language, understanding and respect that develop between the painter and his maid concerning how they see light, color and the use of balance necessary for a finished painting.

Griet is the planned model for a promised painting to one of Vermeer's older patrons who openly lusts after the young and innocent maid. As the painter nears the completion of the painting, he insists Griet wear Catharina's pearl earrings to add needed reflection of light to the painting. Although she agrees the painting needs the reflective light, Griet is hesitant to comply fearing the backlash from Catharina for wearing her earring. Griet finally relents but boldly insists Vermeer place the earring on her lobe. He does so with a sensual tenderness, touching her lobe, inserting the wire and pushing it through. Griet speaks of what takes place next:

He did not remove his hand. His fingers brushed against my neck and along my jaw. He traced the side of my face up to my cheek, then blotted the tears that spilled from my eyes with his thumb. He ran his thumb over my lower lip. I licked it and tasted salt.”

When Vermeer places the earring on Griet's lobe, she can only think of his fingers on her afterwards. It is clear she is infatuated by the quiet mystique of this painter. Perhaps he was also taken by her, discovering her ability to see the array of colors and light he sees in all things. Perhaps it was a longing of what could happen with the unleashing of forbidden desire. Vermeer chooses to move back to his easel and palette to finish the painting.

A historical fiction novel, built around a famous painting, brought to life by the rich colorful written words from this author's palette. It is beautifully simple, where the unspoken, eye-holding looks that pass between Griet and Vermeer are suspended in air and left to the imagination of the reader. There is so much between the lines in this book one does not discover until many days after finishing. As I write this review, I continue to flip through the chapters and discover more and more that I missed on my initial reading.

This is a masterpiece I will continue to savor forever! 2070417948 So the parts when Vermeer was actually being a painter were interesting. Seeing as I slogged through this on account of a recommendation that arose from an art-class lecture on Vermeer, I was hoping that the art stuff would at least deliver.

But it's not a good sign when a book's most compelling moments revolve around two people grinding pigments. And, no: Grinding pigments is not a euphemism for artist-bangin'. It is, quite literally, referring to the detailed descriptions of how paint was made in the days before those fancy metal tubes replaced pig bladders as the paint-storing vessels of choice.

This was the most predictable book I've read in a while, and that includes the two graphic-novel series that are simply retelling stories I know well in a new medium. I knew exactly where the plot was going within the book's first dozen pages. Every subsequent thread was introduced with the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the writerly finesse of a 14-year-old's first attempt at fanfiction.

It was also pretty obvious what stereotype everyone was going to play from his or her very first appearance. There really isn't a multi-dimensional character in this book. I understand that the first-person voice is a limited perspective by its nature, and I would write it off as just that if the peripheral characters were the only flat archetypes, but even the narrator doesn't carry any convincing weight. Griet is the protagonist because she's the main character. And because all of the characters with whom she has scuffles are inexplicably bitchy. Not giving characters any real motivations, not making them behave and interact believably, and generally preferring to tell rather than show all contributed to making this whole book feel sloppy, underdeveloped and rushed. If Girl with a Pearl Earring was maybe 200 more pages of really hammering out the story and its players, maybe then it'd be a more satisfying read. At least it's mercifully quick and mostly painless at its current length.

I say mostly painless because there are some groan-worthy lines showcased here: While more pages would have maybe benefited the plot, there is nothing -- save for a control-freak editor -- that could have improved the prose itself. I could not get past the clunky writing. It didn't take me long to get violently annoyed by the author's fondness for hitting the reader over the head with the most obvious attempts at subtle foreshadowing by way of forcing too much weight on these flimsy, laughably ominous one-sentence paragraphs. There were numerous other technical things that kept grating on me about the writing and its myriad shortcomings. Among them: Griet saying things like I always regretted that decision to indicate that she's looking back on a time that is very clearly written as the present; not one character shows any development throughout the novel; sixteen-year-old Griet, the daughter of a tile painter, somehow knows more about painting and composition than Vermeer, a professional artist who actually managed to garner some fame during his living years.

Even when the book pissed me off (which was often), I will admit that I never found Griet herself to be irritating (maybe because I kept fantasizing about Scarlett Johansson to save my brain from oozing through my ears?) -- but I was irked at how it felt like Chevalier was Mary Sue-ing her way through the character. The way that every man whom Griet encountered in the whole! damn! book! fawned over and flirted with her, the way she was presented as being uneducated but naturally clever just because she sometimes spoke her mind and separated her chopped veggies by color, the way Griet's family was painted as these simple, sheltered little Protestants who knew nothing of the world around them.... there was far too much black-or-white for me to take anything about the book seriously.

I don't care enough to write about this book any more. So. Every other gripe I have notwithstanding, here are three of the book's most glaring failures:

-- Vermeer, for being the central male character, remains an enigma. It's not that he's shrouded in an air of charming mystery but rather that his personality is nothing more than a bunch of suppositions that Griet just knows about him.

-- Griet does not ever refer to Vermeer as anything other than he or him. Not. Once. It made her sound like a starstruck teenybopper and it undermined any sense of genuine affection between the painter and his maid.

-- The similes. Oh, dear sweet Baby Jesus, the similes. I now know that I have a limited tolerance for the number of trite comparisons of faces and voices to household objects that I encounter in one novel, all thanks to the time I spent reading this book. 2070417948 I CAN'T SHOUT MEH! LOUD ENOUGH!!!

The popular fame obtained by this book and its subsequent movie version starring Scarlett Johansson...

*two hours later*

(Sorry, I was daydreaming)...had me expecting a tumultuous romance, a grab-ya and hold-ya reading experience. But this...I don't know what this was, but it wasn't exciting in the least.

Girl With a Pearl Earring is about a maid, who becomes a model, who gets her picture painted and attracts the notice of a few men. The painter is famous, so that's interesting. His patron is rich, of course, and expects to get what he wants, so there's your villain...kind of.

Really, our protagonist's main enemy is jealousy. But that enemy's effectiveness is quashed by another force: money. And that leaves us with a less dramatically, emotionally affecting book.

I read through to the end, expecting something bigger to happen the whole way, but even though it never did, I did still manage to get through it all, so there's something to be said for that.

In the end, however, this book has to say about as much as does a picture of a beautiful woman. Not much.


In related news...
My overly sensitive and irrational wife would like me to take down my Johansson picture collage homage from the ceiling over our bed. But as I've explained, ScarJo needs the support of her #1 fan!



2070417948

read La Jeune fille à la perle

La jeune et ravissante Griet est engagée comme servante dans la maison du peintre Vermeer. Nous sommes à Delft, au dix-septième siècle, l'âge d'or de la peinture hollandaise. Griet s'occupe du ménage et des six enfants de Vermeer en s'efforçant d'amadouer l'épouse, la belle-mère et la gouvernante, chacune très jalouse de ses prérogatives.
Au fil du temps, la douceur, la sensibilité et la vivacité de la jeune fille émeuvent le maître qui l'introduit dans son univers. À mesure que s'affirme leur intimité, le scandale se propage dans la ville...
Un roman envoûtant sur la corruption de l'innocence, l'histoire d'un cœur simple sacrifié au bûcher du génie. La Jeune fille à la perle

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 1999 historical novel written by Tracy Chevalier. Set in 17th century Delft, Holland, the novel was inspired by Delft school painter Johannes Vermeer's painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. Chevalier presents a fictional account of Vermeer, the model, and the painting. The novel was adapted into a 2003 film of the same name and a 2008 play.

Sixteen-year-old Griet lives with her family in Delft in 1664. Her father has been recently blinded in an accident, and the family's precarious economic situation forces Griet's parents to find her employment as a maid in painter Johannes Vermeer's household.

Becoming a maid casts doubt on Griet's respectability because of the bad reputation that maids have for stealing, spying and sleeping with their employers. It is not revealed how much of this reputation is earned.

At the Vermeers, she befriends the family's oldest daughter, Maertge, but is not on good terms with Cornelia, one of Vermeer's younger daughters. She also becomes friendly with Tanneke, the other house servant, but is careful to remain modest and unobtrusive for fear of making Tanneke jealous. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 2001میلادی

عنوان: دختری با گوشواره مروارید؛ نویسنده: تریسی شوالیه؛ مترجم: گلی امامی؛ تهران، نشر چشمه، 1380 در 237ص؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان آمریکایی بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: دختری با گوشواره مروارید؛ نویسنده: تریسی شوالیه؛ مترجم: طاهره صدیقیان؛ تهران، کتابسرای تندیس، 1381، در 269ص، شابک9789645757401؛

نقاشی روی جلد کتاب را، «یوهانس ورمیر»، در سده ی هفدهم میلادی کشیده است، حدس‌ها برای شناسایی نام این مدل نقاشی، بسیار گسترده بوده؛ و همه ی آنها، به علت عدم وجود مشخصه‌ ای ویژه، در «صورت»، «لباس»، یا حتی «محیط»، در حد حدس و گمان، باقیمانده‌ است؛ از جمله ی حدسها، به «ماریا ورمیر (دختر بزرگ یوهانس)»، «مدلینا ون رویژون (دختر دوست و حامی یوهانس، پیتر ون رویژون)»، و یا مدل گمنامی، که در خانه ی «ورمیر» به عنوان پیشخدمت کار می‌کرد، میتوان اشاره کرد؛ جدای از همه ی این حسها و تفاسیر، این اثر نقاشی از معدود آثاری است، که الهامبخش بسیاری از نویسندگان، نقاشان و فیلمسازان در سده ها پس از شکل گیریش بوده‌ است؛ از جمله همین نویسنده «تریسی شوالیه» نیز تحت تاثیر همین نقاشی، این داستان را آفریده است؛

داستان در «دلف»، شهر محل اقامت نقاش، و خانواده‌ اش رخ می‌دهد؛ رمان جایی آغاز می‌شود، که «یوهانس ورمر» و همسرش «کاتارینا»، به خانه‌ ی پدر و مادر «گرت» می‌آیند، تا او را ببینند؛ آن‌ها به دنبال خدمتکاری برای خانه شان می‌گردند؛ پدر «گرت» کاشی سازی است، که بر اثر حادثه‌ ای، بینایی خویش را از دست داده، و از کار افتاده شده؛ خانواده‌ ی «گرت» در شرایط اقتصادی بسیار بدی به سر می‌برند، بنابراین تصمیم می‌گیرند، دخترک شانزده ساله، به عنوان خدمتکار، مشغول کار شود؛ «گرت» دختری مذهبی است، و از اینکه باید به خانه‌ ی کاتولیک‌ها برود، احساس چندان خوشایندی ندارد؛ خانواده‌ ی «ورمر» موافقت کرده‌ اند، او روزهای یکشنبه، به خانه ی خویش برگردد؛ در ادامه‌ ی داستان، «گرت» توجه ارباب را به خود جلب می‌کند، و اجازه پیدا می‌کند، کارگاه نقاشی ارباب را، تمیز کند؛ از آنجایی که «یوهانس ورمر» اجازه‌ ی ورود اعضای خانه، به کارگاهش را نمی‌دهد، این مسئله، حساسیت برانگیز می‌شود؛ تا اینکه نقاش، تصمیم می‌گیرد، پرتره‌ ی دخترک را نقاشی کند، او از «گرت» می‌خواهد گوشواره‌های مروارید همسرش را، بیاویزد، و به ��ای مدل بنشیند...؛

نقل از متن: (حرف‌هایش باعث حیرت من شد، اما وقتی به چشمانش نگاه کردم، و در آنها گرسنگی را دیدم، دریافتم که چرا غرورش را، کنار گذاشته است، این گرسنگی را، پسر یک قصاب می‌توانست بر طرف کند

دست کم در مورد دروغی که جلوتر گفته بودم؛ سئوالی نکرد؛ نمی‌توانستم به آنها بگویم، چرا «تانِکی» از من عصبانی است؛ آن دروغ، دروغی بسیار بزرگتر را پنهان می‌کرد؛ مجبور می‌شدم بیش از اندازه توضیح دهم؛ «تانِکی» فهمیده ‌بود بعد از ظهرها که می‌بایست مشغول خیاطی باشم، چکار می‌کنم

من به ارباب کمک می‌کردم

دو ماه پیش شروع شده بود؛ بعد از ظهری در ماه ژانویه، کمی بعد از تولد «فرانسیسکو»؛ هوا سرد بود؛ «فرانسیسکو» و «یوهان» هر دو بیمار بودند؛ سرفه می‌کردند، و به سختی نفس می‌کشیدند؛ «کاتارینا» و دایه کنار آتش رختشویخانه به آنها رسیدگی می‌کردند، �� بقیه ی ما نزدیک آتش آشپزخانه نشسته بودیم

فقط او آنجا نبود؛ بالا بود؛ به نظر نمی‌رسید که سرما بر او تاثیر بگذارد

کاتارینا آمد و در درگاه میان آشپزخانه و رختشویخانه ایستاد؛ گفت: «کسی باید به عطاری برود»؛ صورتش سرخ شده بود: «مقداری دارو برای پسرها می‌خواهم»؛ مستقیما به من نگاه می‌کرد

معمولا من، آخرین نفری بودم، که برای چنین کاری، انتخاب می‌شدم؛ رفتن به عطاری، مثل خرید از قصابی، یا ماهی‌ فروشی نبود، وظایفی که «کاتارینا»، پس از تولد «فرانسیسکو»، همچنان به عهده‌ ی من، گذاشته بود؛ عطار، پزشکی مورد احترام بود، و «کاتارینا» و «ماریاتین»، دوست داشتند، خودشان به آنجا بروند؛ چنین تجملی برای من، مجاز نبود؛ هرچند در هوای به این سردی، هر وظیفه‌ ای، به کم اهمیت‌ترین عضو خانه سپرده می‌شد؛ برای اولین بار، «مرته» و «الیزابت»، نخواستند مرا همراهی کنند؛ خودم را در شنل و شالی پشمی، پیچیدم، و «کاتارینا» به من گفت، از عطار، گل خشک اقطی، بخرم؛ «کورنلیا» در اطرافم می‌چرخید، و مرا تماشا می‌کرد، که گوشه‌ های شال را به هم گره می‌زدم...)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 25/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی 2070417948 I know almost nothing about art, but even I can tell that Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer is a brilliant painting; 'captivating' is probably the best word to describe it. One presumes that Chevalier agrees with me, and this is what lead her to write a novel about the painting, its subject and its creator. So, is the novel as captivating as the piece that inspired it?

The short answer would be 'no'.

Now for the longer answer...

Chevalier is probably one of the best-known historical novelists of the last ten years, with this book always in the foreground when she is discussed. As far as historical information goes, I think she does okay with it. I had a pretty clear picture of the Netherlands in the seventeenth century by the time I was done with the book (whether or not its accurate or not is another matter), but I felt at times that there wasn't that detail that critics proclaimed about on the cover.

The characters, I feel, are never truly developed. Vermeer himself remains a mystery throughout, even to the protagonist and narrator, Griet, who appears to have some connection with him. Griet meanwhile, is what I would describe as a stock teenage girl character. She is similar to many characters I've read before, and yet she does not really advance on that.

The narrative style is one that I would have adored at 14, but by now find to be pedestrian. This is first person narrative at its simplest (and blandest) and I don't feel that we gain anything from it - the novel may just as well have been in third person and would not have suffered for it. It may even have benefited from it.

The structure is interesting. Split into parts that represent years, rather than having chapter breaks makes it difficult to find a stopping place at times, and it is this more than anything else that makes a page turner of the novel. Meanwhile, the entire thing seems to be building to the inevitable moment when Vermeer will paint Griet. The scenes are handled with less intensity than I had hoped for from the build up, and once the painting is finished, Chevalier seems to want nothing but for the novel to be over too, and closes it down rather too quickly.

Perhaps the fact that little is known about Vermeer's life would imply that a fictional version of it would be easy to tell. Sadly, the gaps in knowledge seem to be too big to fill.

At the end of the novel, I had discovered how this work came about, the girl staring out from it, but still had almost no real idea of the man behind it. It is, in my opinion, a failure in this respect.

However, it is a good read if you're looking for something historical but not too heavy. Or if you like art there are some interesting discussions about colour in there. I can see why many people enjoy this novel, but I cannot fathom why some hold it in such high acclaim. I feel it will be some time before I read anything else by Tracy Chevalier. 2070417948 “I heard voices outside our front door - a woman's, bright as polished brass, and a man's, low and dark like the wood of the table I was working on. They were the kind of voices we heard rarely in our house. I could hear rich carpets in their voices, books and pearls and fur.”


The Girl With the Pearl Earring

When the Vermeers came to visit Griet’s home she had no idea they were there for her. Her parents had decided, given their near destitution, to find Griet a position as a maid with a wealthy family. Her older brother had already been placed in a Delft tile factory. It was now her turn to earn the food that made it’s way into her belly. She was, after all, seventeen.

Johannes Vermeer was a master painter, recognized even in his own time as one of the best, but he was a slow painter. He would only paint when he was inspired to paint. An empty purse or a rumbling stomach were never enough inspiration to make him paint faster. He averaged only two to three paintings a year. As someone who has always admired his paintings I do wish he had been more prolific with his brush, but the fact that there are so few paintings by Vermeer make them all the more precious.

Griet is thrown into this chaotic household. The house is brimming with children, too many children even by the standards of the day. Catharina, Vermeer’s wife, liked being pregnant and though the added burden of a new mouth to feed each year places extra financial stress on her husband and her mother Maria Thins she is oblivious to the consequences. Their fortunes wane and fall based more on the property incomes of her mother than on the commissioned paintings of Vermeer. Each year the purse strings get pulled a bit tighter.

There is one patron, a man who has bought several Vermeer paintings, who they all have to curry favor with...Van Ruijven. His wealth infuses him with an air of entitlement. He is used to getting what he wants and when he sees the wide eyed beauty who has just joined Vermeer’s household he decides he wants her.

Vermeer has found from the very beginning that Griet is different. She sees the world as a painter sees the world. He finds reasons to have her help him by grinding paints and assisting with the objects that populate his paintings. It is only natural that a young girl would start to have feelings and dreams regarding a man such as Vermeer. He is not only talented, but he is also attractive with those gray eyes that see so much more than anyone else.

”I did not like to think of him in that way, with his wife and children. I preferred to think of him alone in his studio. Or not alone, but with only me.”

She becomes very adept at lying so she can spend more time in the studio.


The soldier in The Procuress reminds me of Van Ruijven. One of the most interesting things about this painting is the precariously perched pitcher. It makes me so nervous that I want to reach into the painting and move it to somewhere safer.

Van Ruijven, like odious men always seem to be, is adept at finding young women alone. He is not wanting to gossip with her or exchange thoughts about the weather or to woo her or to cajole her into parting with her charms. His hands with fingers like hooks push against her clothes weighing the curve and shape of her. She has to fend him off without offending him.

Griet has another man in her life, not one that she would choose, but one that is infatuated with her. Pieter, the butcher’s son, wants to make her his wife. Being the wife of a butcher is a dream for many women because she and her family will always be well fed. A butcher is miles away from dream landscape of being the wife of a master painter.

Tracy Chevalier has deftly conceived the possibility of The Girl with the Pearl Earring being a maid in the Vermeer household. With each new revelation the tensions between Griet and Catharina tighten like lute strings pressing into tender flesh. Maria Thins, a realist, runs interference between all parties as best she can, but Catharina beset by jealousy and churlishness has difficulty seeing the bigger picture. I’ve read where other reviewers were disappointed in this book. They felt that very little happened, but they must be the same people who think baseball is boring.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading this book as if I were watching a ten pitch at bat in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The deception of the pitcher trying to outmatch the quick hands of the batter. The shifting of the outfield depending on the ball the pitcher intends to throw next. The subtle communications between the catcher and the pitcher. Add a base runner at first and now the situation feels like Griet trying to maneuver her way through a world of lust, deviousness, and deceit. Does she run or does she wait for something to happen?

There are lots of moments that need no dialogue as Griet experiences impossible longings…“I could not think of anything but his fingers on my neck, his thumb on my lips.” There are things we can’t say because they can not be unsaid.


Scarlett Johansson played Griet in the 2003 movie of The Girl With the Pearl Earring.

The painting that Vermeer paints of Griet is a compromise to Van Ruijven who wanted much, much more. With her direct gaze at her audience and the slight parting of her lips this is an acceptable form of pornography, slightly scandalous, fodder for gossips, but not anything that could bring unwanted attention from the authorities. It gives Griet a shiver to think of her captured innocence resting under the lecherous eyes of Van Ruijven, but better a painting than losing that which she wishes to give her future husband.

I bought a canvas copy of The Girl With the Pearl Earring last year. The print is gallery wrapped which gives the painting animation as if it can jump away from the wall and walk into this life. She is hung over the staircase with enough light from the window over the door to show off the skill of Vermeer to illuminate. When people walk in the door they are struck as millions over centuries have been struck. People who don’t know a Vermeer from a Dali have to take a moment to access and appreciate her lustrous beauty. From where I sit to read I can see her and occasionally she catches my eye, a flirtation that makes me feel years younger.

”I looked at the painting one last time, but by studying it so hard I felt something slip away. It was like looking at a star in the night sky--if I looked at one directly I could barely see it, but if I looked from the corner of my eye it became much brighter.”

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten 2070417948 Another one of my wife's recommendations (I read a lot of books that way), I picked it up from the bookshelf the night we came back from seeing the film with Scarlett Johansonn and Colin Firth. I loved the movie--it was just so incredibly sumptuous--and was curious to know the story in the novel, which I knew from experience, and from my wife's continuous comments, would be different, more detailed. I was right.

Chevalier has won a place in my heart and bookshelf. Her novels are well-crafted, simple to follow, and addictive; Girl was no exception. The story of the maid Griet in 1600's Delft, Holland, was amazing in its simple prose and endless emotion. Completely fictional (no one knows who exactly were the models for any of Vermeer's paintings), it nonetheless possesses a veracity that makes you believe Chevalier found the long-lost journal of this unknown woman and wrote her novel based on it. The details of seventeen century Holland are rich; you feel you are walking the canal-lined streets of Delft, smelling the pungent scents of the Meat Market, holding your breath as Vermeer paints next to you. Griet is a wonderful protagonist, taking you into her world, yet retaining a few secrets for herself, especially where Vermeer is concerned.

Girl is one of those novels that truly invites you, and almost kidnaps you, to become part of the story, to walk next to the characters, to share in their lives, to feel as they feel. Watch the movie, by all means (the photography is absolutely incredible), but then read the novel and get the whole story. You will not be disappointed. 2070417948 I approached this novel trepidatiously. How could I ever suspend my disbelief with this work? How could I ever believe such a ridiculous tale about Vermeer and one of his most revered paintings? I must admit that I opened this novel expecting to utterly detest the lies it weaves. By page two I realised that I was an idiot who should never be listened to.

Griet is hired as a maid to the Vermeer family in Delft. This novel supposes that Griet the maid was the sitter for Vermeer's great work Girl with a Pearl Earring. However that is not the story, or at least it is only a small part of it. The novel mainly concerns the inner workings of the Vermeer household and Griet's attempts to keep everything in control. It is a fantastic character study and I do admire Chevalier's bravery in using the first-person narrative. Whilst I will admit that at times Griet's dialogue is somewhat stilted and some lines are just downright odd ('His smile made me grip my broom tightly' was one line that made me chuckle due to its utter ridiculousness), she is never an annoying or tiring character.

I really enjoyed the subtlety and delicacy of the novel. The plot flows along nicely which causes you to really fly through the narrative. It is not a criticism that I often voice but I would have almost liked for this novel to be longer. I feel I will truly miss Griet. I must say that I am somewhat smitten with this novel. It genuinely surprised me. It's really great. 2070417948

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