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Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

Girl in Hyacinth Blue (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Susan Vreeland (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,753793,217 (3.6)152
Title:Girl in Hyacinth Blue
Authors:Susan Vreeland (Author)
Info:Penguin Books (2000), 242 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:vermeer through time

Work details

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland (1999)

  1. 40
    Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both books are historical fiction surrounding a Vermeer painting, but The Girl with the Pearl Earring is a far superior book.
  2. 30
    People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both well written, and both follow an art object from end to beginning, through the hands of those who once owned it.
  3. 10
    The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland (conceptDawg)

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Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
Very creative. I enjoy a good historical fiction book. This book did something very different than a lot of others, it took a story about a fictional piece of artwork and a told a story in a very easy to understand format.

Sometimes I've read a book about art or history that has me Googling details left and right so that I can understand it more.
This book was light enough that you could sit down and read it in an afternoon, but also that you totally trust the author invested a ton of time in her own research.

I like how this story traced the paintings origins in backwards chronological order. We start in present day, with a man who inherited the painting from his father who stole it from a Jewish family. Then we meet the Jewish family and find out how they came to own the painting. The stories trace all the way back to the creation of the painting and to the inspiration.

( )
  Mishale1 | Dec 29, 2018 |
Girl In Hyacinth Blue 🍒🍒🍒🍒
By Susan Vreeland

A professor invites a colleague from the art department to view his painting he has kept hidden and secret for years, believing the painting to be one by Vermeer....
Broken into short stories, each follows the ownership of the art piece, and its life and significance to that owner. Each story could stand alone, but taken together it gives a rich and unique insight into the world of art, specifically art ownership. It traces the work back to WW II in Amsterdam, when the painting was considered priceless.
I loved this original, historical novel. It was excellent. It recommended it.
Thanks to Jackie for this book! ( )
  over.the.edge | Aug 13, 2018 |
Told in eight chapters, each was a story of an owner of the painting, which may have been a Vermeer. Caused a lot of discussion at book club. ( )
  nancynova | May 26, 2018 |
A series of stories told in reverse chronology relate the history of a fictional painting by Vermeer. These short stories are individually enticing, put together, they have an exceptional result. ( )
  VivienneR | May 10, 2018 |
This book bored me at first, but towards the end, it reminded me why I fell in love with Johannes Vermeer's work back when I was studying art history. ( )
  elgosh | Sep 12, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Vreelandprimary authorall editionscalculated
Holleman, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Thou still unravished bride of quietness
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time...
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity.
- John Keats, 1819
O ongeschonden bruid van stille vrede,
pleegkind van den tijd die langzaam gaat...
Jij doet ons denken hoog ter aard'uit stijgen
zoals de eeuwigheid.
For Scott Godfrey, D.O., and Peter Falk, M.D.
First words
Cornelius Engelbrecht invented himself. (Love Enough)
She thought of all the people in all the paintings she had seen that day, not just Father's, in all the paintings of the world, in fact. Their eyes, the particular turn of a head, their loneliness or suffering or grief was borrowed by an artist to be seen by other people throughout the years who would never see them face to face. People who would be that close to her, she thought, a matter of a few arms' lengths, looking, looking, and they would never know her.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Love Enough

A Night Different From All Other Nights


Hyacinth Blues


From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers

Still Life

Magdalena Looking.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014029628X, Paperback)

There are only 35 known Vermeers extant in the world today. In Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland posits the existence of a 36th. The story begins at a private boys' academy in Pennsylvania where, in the wake of a faculty member's unexpected death, math teacher Cornelius Engelbrecht makes a surprising revelation to one of his colleagues. He has, he claims, an authentic Vermeer painting, "a most extraordinary painting in which a young girl wearing a short blue smock over a rust-colored skirt sat in profile at a table by an open window." His colleague, an art teacher, is skeptical and though the technique and subject matter are persuasively Vermeer-like, Engelbrecht can offer no hard evidence--no appraisal, no papers--to support his claim. He says only that his father, "who always had a quick eye for fine art, picked it up, let us say, at an advantageous moment." Eventually it is revealed that Engelbrecht's father was a Nazi in charge of rounding up Dutch Jews for deportation and that the picture was looted from one doomed family's home:
That's when I saw that painting, behind his head. All blues and yellows and reddish brown, as translucent as lacquer. It had to be a Dutch master. Just then a private found a little kid covered with tablecloths behind some dishes in a sideboard cabinet. We'd almost missed him.
By the end of "Love Enough," this first of eight interrelated stories tracing the history of "Girl in Hyacinth Blue," the painting's fate at the hands of guilt-riddled Engelbrecht fils is in question. Unfortunately, there is no doubt about the probable destiny of the previous owners, the Vredenburg family of Rotterdam, who take center stage in the powerful "A Night Different From All Other Nights." Vreeland handles this tale with subtlety and restraint, setting it at Passover, the year before the looting, and choosing to focus on the adolescent Hannah Vredenburg's difficult passage into adulthood in the face of an uncertain future. In the next story, "Adagia," she moves even further into the past to sketch "how love builds itself unconsciously ... out of the momentous ordinary" in a tender portrait of a longtime marriage. Back and back Vreeland goes, back through other owners, other histories, to the very inception of the painting in the homely, everyday objects of the Vermeer household--a daughter's glass of milk, a son's shirt in need of buttons, a wife's beloved sewing basket--"the unacknowledged acts of women to hallow home." Girl in Hyacinth Blue ends with the painting's subject herself, Vermeer's daughter Magdalena, who first sends the portrait out into the world as payment for a family debt, then sees it again, years later at an auction.
She thought of all the people in all the paintings she had seen that day, not just Father's, in all the paintings of the world, in fact. Their eyes, the particular turn of a head, their loneliness or suffering or grief was borrowed by an artist to be seen by other people throughout the years who would never see them face to face. People who would be that close to her, she thought, a matter of a few arms' lengths, looking, looking, and they would never know her.
In this final passage, Susan Vreeland might be describing her own masterpiece as well as Vermeer's. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:19 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Eight linked stories tracing the history of a painting by the 17th century Dutch artist, Vermeer. In one, he paints his daughter to pay off debts, a second story describes the loss of the ownership papers, a third takes place on the eve of its theft by the Nazis. By the author of What Love Sees.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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