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Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)

by Tracy Chevalier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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15,338286243 (3.76)561
A maid becomes a model for the 17th century Dutch painter, Vermeer. The woman, an artisan's daughter with a strong power of observation, describes his manner of work, his household and life of the day, including the rigid class system and religious bigotry. A debut in fiction.

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» See also 561 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
I loathe YA romance novels pretending to be serious literary fiction. ( )
  vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
It was alright. The description of the times, location and the art are amazing. But the story line seemed blah. She's very ordinary. I kind of expected more. ( )
  smooody106 | Mar 31, 2020 |
It is not hard to see why Johannes Vermeer's painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring, is sometimes referred to as "the Dutch Mona Lisa"; the subject of the painting has an equally enigmatic expression as her Italian cousin. It's a piece is art that can stir the imagination, as one speculates about the story behind the picture; who is the wide-eyed young woman, and what is the nature of her relationship to the married painter?

Such imaginings inspired Tracey Chevalier to write her fictional account of events leading up to the completion of the painting. In her version of events, Griet is a young girl in 17th century Delft, from a not wealthy, but comfortable background, forced to take up work as a maid when an accident puts an end to her father's career as a skilled craftsman. She takes a place in the Vermeer household, and given the task of cleaning the painter's studio. Although not fully understanding art or how a painter works, she develops an appreciation of Vermeer's work, and an apparent level of understanding develops between Griet and Vermeer, with Griet taking on duties of helping him, preparing his paints.

Within this imagining of the story are some beautifully drawn characters, from the aloof Vermeer, his pampered wife, and her stern but perceptive mother, to the taciturn older maid and petulant, deceitful daughter.

Beyond the story is a commentary on the class and gender divides in existence in the 17th century; Griet is strong and intelligent, but her social class and gender prevent her from achieving her potential; while the higher class men are weak, and ultimately only interested in what is of benefit to them, with no thought of the potential consequences.

Highly readable and captivating, I would recommend this book to anyone. ( )
  TheEllieMo | Jan 18, 2020 |
An excellent read! ( )
  sf_addict | Nov 2, 2019 |
I had a hard time being drawn into the characters in this novel. They seemed very one-dimensional and stereotypical to me. I did not feel that I understood a lot of their motivations and I never felt I got to know any of them. I did enjoy the description of the art and artistic processes and the way the place and time were described, especially in the beginning of the book. After reading this book, I feel like I understand Guy Gavriel Kay's criticism of historical fiction with real historical figures as characters. Kay writes in his essay "Home and Away,"

"And then there are the moral questions. These emerge most strongly when we consider that 'history' isn't just about the distant past. Consider the works that involve real people - living or recently dead - saying and doing things the author has simply made up. There is no way to know if such scenes are true, indeed, put more strongly, there is almost no way that they are true. Does this matter? Should it?...

The question - or one question - seems to me to be this: are there limits, or ought there to be limits, to what writers of fiction feel at liberty to do with real people and their lives? Does anything go, in fiction as in Cole Porter songs? ...

I don't have an answer to this, I confess it freely, but I have a great many variants of the question. Can we make Elizabeth I of England say anything we want her to say to her secret lovers - lovers for the allegedly Virgin Queen - because, well, it is just a novel or a film, everyone knows we are making it up? Can we do it with Elizabeth II right now? Can we hide behind the fact that our work is fiction, even while we seek to gain readers and a thrilled attention by using real, famous people? Is there, in short, a moral issue here? Does privacy or respect for lives lived have anything at all to do with novelists? Should it?

If someone is famous can we do whatever we want with their life? If they are utterly obscure - like Almasy - can we do it? If they are dead, like Jackie Gleason? Long dead, like Richard III? Living, but so famous their lives and names might be considered public property - like Queen Elizabeth or Elizabeth Taylor? These are issues I find worth wrestling with, as more and more works today seems to be incorporating the existence of real people, with too little thoughtful discussion ensuing about the implications." (You can read the essay in its entiretly at Kay's website (http://www.brightweavings.com/ggkswords/globe.htm )

I felt kind of sorry for Vermeer's wife and daughter. They were portrayed in such a negative light and all of it conjecture without any real information beyond their names and relationship to Vermeer.

I can see why many people enjoyed the novel. It was a fast read that was very successful bringing the historical era alive. The tension between Griet and Vermeer was well done. Overall, though, I felt that it missed the mark for me.
  Cora-R | Jul 31, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
For a while it seems that it will be... an artist romance. Tracy Chevalier steers her novel deliberately close and tacks abruptly away. The book she has written, despite a lush note or two and occasional incident overload, is something far different and better... [Instead, it is] a brainy novel whose passion is ideas.
Chevalier's exploration into the soul of this complex but nave young woman is moving, and her depiction of 17th-century Delft is marvelously evocative.

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chevalier, Tracyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bruning, FransTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eikli, RagnhildTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fortier-Masek, Marie-OdileTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gothóni, ArjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morahan, HattieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pugliese, LucianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strandberg, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tremain, RoseForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vázquez, PilarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wulfekamp, UrsulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my father
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My mother did not tell me they were coming.
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Chevalier's classic book takes place during the 17th Century and features Griet, a young Dutch maid, who moves in with the family of the well-known artist Vermeer; she discovers that her profession requires long hours, no privacy, and small contact with her own ailing family. However, Griet's only place of solitude is when she cleans Vermeer's studio and reveals to him her appreciation of his art.
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Average: (3.76)
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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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