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Summary and book reviews of Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Girl With A Pearl Earring

by Tracy Chevalier

Girl With A Pearl Earring
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  • First Published:
    Dec 1999, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2000, 240 pages

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Book Summary

A vivid portrait of colorful seventeenth-century Delft, as well as the hauntingly poignant story of one young girl's rite of passage.

In seventeenth-century Delft, there's a strict social order--rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, master and servant--and all know their place. When Griet becomes a maid in the household of the painter Johannes Vermeer, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry, and the care of his six children. She even feels able to handle his shrewd mother-in-law; his restless, sensual wife; and their jealous servant. What no one expects is that Griet's quiet manner, quick perceptions, and fascination with her master's paintings will draw her inexorably into his world. Their growing intimacy sparks whispers; and when Vermeer paints her wearing his wife's pearl earrings, the gossip escalates into a full-blown scandal that irrevocably changes Griet's life.

Written with the precision and focus of an Old Master painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring is a vivid portrait of colorful seventeenth-century Delft, as well as the hauntingly poignant story of one young girl's rite of passage.

In the morning he asked me to come up in the afternoon. I assumed he wanted me to work with the colors, that he was starting the concert painting. When I got to the studio he was not there. I went straight to the attic. The grinding table was clear--nothing had been laid out for me. I climbed back down the ladder, feeling foolish.

He had come in and was standing in the studio, looking out a window.

"Take a seat, please, Griet," he said, his back to me.

I sat in the chair by the harpsichord. I did not touch it--I had never touched an instrument except to clean it. As I waited I studied the paintings he had hung on the back wall that would form part of the concert painting. There was a landscape on the left, and on the right a picture of three people--a woman playing a lute, wearing a dress that revealed much of her bosom, a gentleman with his arm around her, and an old woman. The man was buying the young woman's favors, the old woman reaching to take the coin he held out...

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About the Book

In mid-career, the renowned 17th century Baroque artist Johannes Vermeer painted "Girl with a Pearl Earring," which has been called the Dutch Mona Lisa. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story behind the advent of this famous painting, all the while depicting life in 17th century Delft, a small Dutch city with a burgeoning art community.

The novel centers on Griet, the Protestant daughter of a Delft tile painter who lost his sight in a kiln accident. In order to bring income to her struggling family, Griet must work as a maid for a more financially sound family. When Jan Vermeer and his wife approve of Griet as a maid for their growing Catholic household, she leaves home and quickly enters adult life. The Vermeer ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle

The elegant prose evokes contemplation, the pace is slow and cumulative, the drama emotional..

USA Today

Writer Tracy Chevalier has created an outstanding novel...Chevalier's imagination adds life to an already brilliant painting in this elegantly developed and beautifully written novel.

Time

A portrait of radiance...Tracy Chevalier brings the real artist Vermeer and a fictional muse to life in a jewel of a novel.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer - Nancy Connors

Girl With a Pearl Earring...is the richest, most rewarding novel of 1999...Chevalier has spun a fascinating tale...

Publishers Weekly

Marvelously textured...completely absorbing.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Novelist Tracy Chevalier has so vividly imagined the life of the painter and his subject that you say to yourself Yes, this is the way it must have been.

Reader Reviews

Rachel

Captivating...
This book really takes you into their world... a very thrilling and experience. After the first page, I just couldn't put it down. I enjoyed reading this book and so will you!

Meredith

Despite what some say about loving the book and then being disappointed by the ending, I disagree. You have to look at the whole book and when you do you realise that what Griet did was right for her at that time. Anything else would have been a lie ...   Read More

Amanda

This is a beautifully written novel. When you read it you feel as if you are looking through Griets eyes.

S.B

an astounding and captivating novel about Vermeer's art and 17th century life in Delft

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