Friday, 25 April 2014

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Girl With a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter's attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings - the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings.

In contrast to her work in her master's studio, Griet must carve a place for herself in a chaotic Catholic household run by Vermeer's volatile wife Catharina, his shrewd mother-in-law Maria Thins, and their fiercely loyal maid Tanneke. Six children (and counting) fill out the household, dominated by six-year-old Cornelia, a mischievous girl who sees more than she should.

On the verge of womanhood, Griet also contends with the growing attentions both from a local butcher and from Vermeer's patron, the wealthy van Ruijven. And she has to find her way through this new and strange life outside the loving Protestant family she grew up in, now fragmented by accident and death.

As Griet becomes part of her master's work, their growing intimacy spreads disruption and jealousy within the ordered household and even - as the scandal seeps out - ripples in the world beyond

About the Author

Tracy Chevalier was born in Washington, DC but has lived in England all her adult life, and now has dual citizenship (but kept the American accent). She has a BA in English from Oberlin College, Ohio, and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. Tracy lives in London with her English husband and son. Before turning to writing full-time, she was a reference book editor for several years. She has written seven novels. Her second novel, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, sold 4 million copies worldwide, and was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson



New York Times

1 comment:

  1. Set during the “Golden Age” of Holland, Girl with a Pearl Earring is rich in art, historical details of domestic life and the attitudes of the different levels of society and religion at that time. The novel stimulated us to look further. Tracey Chevalier’s TED talk, “Finding the Story in the Painting”, revealed how the author approached her work, and which details were fact and which were fiction. The author started building her story from the earring itself because it was something that a girl of her status (indicated by her clothing) would not have. Members who missed the TED talk were curious as to how much of the story was historically accurate (answer – not much) and looked at Vermeer’s biography. We learned about the painter and his work; that prompted us to seek out his paintings on the internet to study the detail, the colour and the use of light.
    Our personal responses to the novel ranged from passionate attachment to indifference, yet all agreed it is an excellent book club book. In particular, the research into the minutia of daily life, resulted in those little domestic details building up like brush strokes to create an entire picture. Chevalier’s skilled use of figurative language was part of that creative process. The reader was meant to see and to see in the way that Griet and Vermeer did. The book-as- painting was an interesting discussion; those readers that “see” the setting and action of the novel were more inclined to like the book due to the detail that the author provided. Others found the novel bland and felt the characters needed further development.
    Griet was a believable, likeable character. It was sad to see her evident talent and know that she would never have the opportunity to develop it. In the beginning she was na├»ve and impressed by the middle class life of the Vermeer family. The painter, perhaps as a man of genius, was totally self-absorbed and disregarded the position in which he put Griet. At least he protected her from his mentor, van Ruijvan. All were relieved that “nothing happened” between Griet and Vermeer.