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Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Susan Vreeland

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,350612,676 (3.59)122
Member:SqueakyChu
Title:Girl in Hyacinth Blue
Authors:Susan Vreeland
Info:Penguin Books (2000), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:
Tags:artists, painting

Work details

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland (1999)

  1. 10
    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.
  2. 00
    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.
  3. 00
    The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland (conceptDawg)
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» See also 122 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
This was a lovely and evocative story. The tale traces the life of a painting by Vermeer, from its present-day hide-a-way as a painful yet beloved reminder of a father's Nazi past, to the love of the daughter who posed for the painting. Although the story and, indeed, the painting itself, is fiction, the vignettes ring true with the cares of everyday life graced by an appreciation of the painting's beauty. ( )
  wareagle78 | Mar 21, 2014 |
This book was not what I was expecting. It turned out to be a series of what were essentially vignettes going progessively back in time following the owners of a (supposed) Vermeer painting. Each chapter was therefore completely new characters, with the only commonality being the painting itself. I was hoping for a more traditional novel and this format did not hold my interest. I never felt compelled to move on to the next chapter, and so I just stopped reading it partway through. ( )
  sbsolter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Wonderful look at a piece of art and its history. Makes one wonder about the "history" of any particular piece of art or antique. If you enjoy this book, check out the movie "The Red Violin" - another "history". Loved the writing style. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 16, 2013 |
I want something fluffy that can stand up to interruptions. This was in the used bookstore and I can leave it for my notstepmother when I leave.

This might not be as fluffy as I thought.

Because of their subject and close publication dates I associated this with Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I love, and thought this was the fluffier. Nope. The prose is lovely, the characters alive despite minimal description, the stories true. Love! ( )
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Girl in Hyacinth Blue follows the path of a painting, possibly by Vermeer, from an aloof math professor backwards to the painter and the subject. Each owner has a different story to tell, and even a little bit of a different relationship to the painting, but they all love it and find echoes of something they feel inside themselves inside the painting. And isn't that sort of the point of truly great art?

The novel itself has the feel of a short story collection. Each chapter is about a different owner and is a complete story unto itself. The novel never feels choppy though. But--the writing. Beautiful. It lived up to the painting that I painted inside my head. I truly saw the landscapes Susan Vreeland paints with her words and I truly felt involved with each character's story.

If you love beautiful language, or you love beautiful art, read this book. It's just gorgeous. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Vreelandprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holleman, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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.
Dedication
For Scott Godfrey, D.O., and Peter Falk, M.D.
First words
Cornelius Engelbrecht invented himself. (Love Enough)
Quotations
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.)
Disambiguation notice
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Book description
Love Enough

A Night Different From All Other Nights

Adagia

Hyacinth Blues

Morningshine

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:14 -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)

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