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.”
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.
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).
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