Originally posted on my previous blog – this review has been edited for mistakes/clarity
This book was lent to me by my friend, Tijana who shoved this in my hand, demanding me to read favourite of hers.
The book focuses on the household and family of the painter, Johannes Vermeer, who painted 35 paintings in the 1600’s. It follows the year in which Griet, a very young maid with a poor family, worked at the house for (around 2 years) and her relationships with the members of the family and her sudden attraction to the paintings her master paints. Slowly, she becomes involved in the small world of beautiful clothes and jewellery and the whimsical worlds of the paintings.
A lot of us know, at least, the painting of Girl with a Pearl Earring – if notthe painter, Vermeer. This is such a compelling story. It is so intriguing and entertaining even to find out and discover the world that Vermeer painted in and ultimately the story behind the painting. It’s unclear if this is the real or theory of the story behind it or literally from Tracy Chevalier’s imagination. In a way that is good, it leaves it up to the reader to believe the story or not but in a way, I kind of really want to know the person in the painting.
I loved this book a lot. The writing was so lovely and easy to read. I really liked Griet as a voice and it was great to see a glimpse into her life and into a time that is not written about as much. It was refreshing to have a servant as the voice instead Vermeer himself, it added mystery to Vermeer’s character, appearing ever so often. I felt so much for Griet from the beginning and winced at the insults thrown at her, got angry at the behaviour of the other members of the household and happy whenever Vermeer took her side.
What I did like was the fact that there is a story behind about 9 of Vermeer’s paintings and does give an insight into his world that we know so little about. It was interesting to have the historical setting in The Netherlands rather than England or America. The book is also obviously researched thoroughly. Tracy Chevalier shows clearly she has a deep passion for Vermeer’s work and paintings like the main one.
This is one I think a lot of people would enjoy, especially if they are into historical fiction or have seen this film. Personally I haven’t but after reading, would like to see it to make the difference. It’s sad in a way that we know so little about the lives in that era of this famous painter, but this book does transport you to a world where the tiniest thing counts in your life.
A great little read which really opens your eyes a little bit and appreciate the art around us especially Vermeer who struggled for so long with finances in his lifetime, although now would sell for millions. Girl with a Pearl Earring is on show at the Mauritshuis, The Hague
I give it 4.5 out of 5
*UPDATE: I’m wrote this review in 2011, but jump forward to 2017, sitting editing this and I find myself smiling at 16 year-old me. After reading this book, I dreamed of one day seeing the Girl With The Pearl Earring painting in the flesh, yet never thought it would happen as The Hague seemed like this far off place that I would never visit. Yet a few weeks ago, I went to Amsterdam and took a day trip especially to The Hague to see the painting, sitting amongst Mauritshuis’ paintings. I think 16 year-old me would be a tad jealous…