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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Review: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier


Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Unabridged, 7 hr. 26 min.
Recorded Books
Ruth Ann Phimister (narrator)
July 16, 2004
★★★★★

Genre: Art Historical Fiction, Audiobook

Source: Borrowed Audiobook from the Library
 
“Tracy Chevalier's second novel Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant--and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter's jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic. Still, Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist.”
Girl With A Pearl Earring is based on the famous painting by the same name by Johannes Vermeer. Chevalier brings that mysterious woman who looks out at us from her frame to life and injects her into everyday life in Delft. Griet becomes a maid in the Vermeer household and struggles right from the start to find her place there. The one place where she finds solace is when she is cleaning the studio for the painter. Little does she know that the solace that she finds there and the attention she gets from Johannes makes people in the house become upset. As things get increasingly out of control, Griet must make some decisions that will affect her life and her place in the household.

I initially read this book about 5 years ago – and I really didn’t remember much when it came to reading it again this time. I think it probably had something to do with the fact that I had to read it for school – and that is never as enjoyable. I feel that this is one of the best art novels around – it sets the bar high for every subsequent novel.

One of the things that I found very interesting is how different Vermeer’s wife, Catherina, is portrayed in this book compared to how she is portrayed in The Golden Tulip by Rosalind Laker. In both stories a young girl goes to live with the Vermeers (in Pearl Earring as a maid and in Tulip as an apprentice). Catherina doesn’t like Griet and goes out of her way to make life difficult for her. But in Tulip she is very kind and welcoming to Francesca. It’s amazing how different authors can depict the same person so differently. I think I liked her much better in Tulip.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed was how all of Vermeer’s famous paintings came to life in this novel. You got to meet all of the people who sat for the paintings and it added a deeper meaning to the works. On her website, Chevalier, has the paintings juxtaposed with lines from the novel.

Overall I very much enjoyed this story. Besides learning about the life of the artist and the paintings, I learned about the camara obscura (a box with mirrors that somehow helps the artist see his work better) and how pigments were made. This was my first Chevalier book, but it won’t be my last.

★★★★★

The narrators voice was very appropriate to the charcter of Griet. The narrator was really able to make me feel for Greit during all of her troubling times.

Author Tracy Chevalier also has written The Last Runaway, Remarkable Creatures, Burning Bright, Falling Angels, The Lady and the Unicorn, and Virgin Blue. You can visit Chevalier’s website for additional information about the book.If you haven’t read this book and want to whet your palate, try reading the first chapter or check out this video (of the movie).

 
 

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

 
 
 



Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

6 comments:

  1. I haven't read The Golden Tulip but really enjoyed Pearl Earring...I felt sorry for Caterina in that one. Wasn't as big a fan of the movie but...when is the movie ever as good?!? Thanks for posting!

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  2. I have not yet read this book, but have heard it was good. I was not aware it was made into a movie. The movie trailer certainly got my attention.
    Sigh, one more book (rather 2) for my TBR list.

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  3. Heather, Rosalind Laker is one of my favorite historical romance authors. I highly recommend TO DANCE WITH KINGS, which is a fascinating look at the court of Versailles.

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  4. I read this book a number of years ago. I initially picked it up just to read the first few pages. A few hours later I closed it with a sigh having read it straight through. Unfortunately I haven't been able to replicate that enjoyment and satisfaction with any of Chevalier's other books, but I keep on trying.

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  5. Marg - I think I know what you mean. I just finished The Lady and the Unicorn on audio and while it was ok it didn't have the same sense of urgency to finish it - I could wait until the next time.

    Christine - Amy highly recommended To Dance With Kings as well. I will have to look into that one. I have The Venetian Mask on my shelf right now.

    Rowenna and Librarypat - I know I saw the movie when I originally read it, but I don't remember it. I guess I will have to Neflix it and refresh my memory.

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  6. I only have seen the movie and thought it was just enjoyable. We had to learn more about the lives of Dutch painters and it was to learn more about their lives. I never read the book, but I am interested to read it. Thanks for the great review.

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