Girl in Hyacinth Blue
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue

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3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  22,800 ratings  ·  1,177 reviews
A professor invites a colleague from the art department to his home to view a painting he has kept secret for decades in Susan Vreeland's powerful historical novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The professor swears it's a Vermeer -- but why exactly has he kept it hidden so long? The reasons unfold in a gripping sequence of stories that trace ownership of the work back to Amsterd...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Art & Artists in Fiction
6th out of 347 books — 573 voters
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Art History Fiction
2nd out of 27 books — 15 voters


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Lisa
Girl in Hyacinth Blue tells the story of a painting by the Dutch painter Vermeer, as it passes from one owner to another. Interestingly, the story is told in reverse chronological order, beginning with the math teacher who, at present time, hides the painting in his home, to the girl in the painting and her wishes to become an artist herself. I thought the book kept getting better and better as it travels back in history to reveal the effects the painting had on each owner. They all find some co...more
Hayes
Jun 24, 2012 Hayes rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Brazilliant Laura is next
I liked this gentle story very much. We follow an imaginary painting back in time. We first see it hanging on the wall in a Math teacher’s house. The teacher is enigmatic and strange, and his story reveals the shady nature of the "acquisition" of this painting by his father in Amsterdam. And we don’t know: is it, or is it not by the Master Jan Vermeer?

We are taken slowly back in time, until we arrive at the moment that the painting was created, first in the mind of the artist and then on canvas...more
Jeannette
Aug 27, 2012 Jeannette added it
Recommended to Jeannette by: Hayes
An interesting collection of short stories that, together, tell the story of a painting (possibly by Vermeer) known as Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The story is told through a series of companion pieces that give the reader glimpses into the history of the painting, from present day, back to its beginning in the 1670s. Most of the stories are tinged with sadness and longing; the girl in the painting representing something lost or something unattainable. Each story also stands on its own, but it’s the...more
Carol
Great read! Vreeland writes several short stories of a lost Vermeer painting and the people whose lives it touched. The stories are told from the present to long ago, back in time. This lost painting is a portrait of a young woman looking out a window, lost in thought, brilliantly clothed in hyacinth blues. The stories contain exquisite visual descriptions of his artwork and the everyday lives of ordinary women. I loved how Vreeland described color and how his paintings contained the "dust of cr...more
Jeanette (Most of My Favorite Authors Are Dead)
I like the way this author writes. This is one of those books where an object is the main character, rather than a person. In this case, the object is a (fictional) Vermeer painting of a girl sitting and looking out the window with her sewing in her lap.
There are eight interconnected stories that follow the painting back through history to its various owners and how they came to own or sell the painting. Eventually it works back to Vermeer's creation of the painting.
My only complaint is that I...more
Rachael
I really enjoyed this book. I've owned it for seven or eight years now, and I reread it every six months or so. It's a beautifully written series of brief chapter-sized vignettes recounting the history of a Vermeer painting, as told (in reverse chronological order) by all the people who have possessed the painting. The final stor(ies) are told by the painting's model, Vermeer's daughter. Each chapter also deals with the decision of each character to give up the painting for various reasons.

Coup...more
Adriane Devries
The book we read last month for book club was The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland. It was a well-written, thought provoking and inspiring book, but to tell you the truth, I probably would not have finished it if it weren’t for the fact that I was in a book club that keeps me accountable. It’s the perfect example of why I’m in this book club in the first place: to keep me reading things that challenge me a bit, rather than always the easy, thrilling Dan Brown or JK Rowling types.

I liked...more
Laura
Jul 26, 2012 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Chrissie, Jeannette is next
Just arrived from Italy, kindly sent by Hayes, through BM.


This book is a collection of 8 short stories describing the story of Vermeer, the famous 17th century Dutch painter. A splendid and delightful book.

1. Love enough
2. Night different from all other nights
3. Adagia
4. Hyacinth blues

Girl in Hyacinth Blue


5. Morningshine --
6. From the personal papers of Adriaan Kuypers --
7. Still life --

The Little Street


The View of Delft


Girl Reading a Letter by an open window


The Milkmaid


Christ in the House of...more
Debbie
I'm really not one for collections of short stories. I'm admittedly voracious in all things and that does not exclude my reading choices. I always feel short stories leave me still hungry for more. I'm frequently fond of saying, "I don't want a taste. That's just a tease. I want the whole thing." However, very rarely a book of short stories comes along which I find appropriate and satisfying. This is the case with Girl In Hyacinth Blue.

I've not read any of Susan Vreeland's books previously but h...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 25, 2013 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Suzanne
I recently read Girl with a Pearl Earring because I'm going to go see it at the High Museum in Atlanta, and another GoodReads friend turned me on to this book. Most of the chapters of this book were previously published individually, all telling bits of a story of another Vermeer painting. I loved how there was so much mystery to the painting, so many stories surrounding it, even if they were fiction, still an enjoyable read. Her descriptions of the landscape are also very vivid.

Little bits I ma...more
Sun
This is one of the better novels inspired by the paintings of Vermeer. I say that because I've recently read 4 of them:

Tracey Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring was undoubtedly the best of them, with a solid plotline, populated by recognisable characters and was sophisticated enough to involve thematic imagery.

This is followed by Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The writing is good in this but the book is not so much a novel but a series of short stories that are linked by one Vermeer...more
Elizabeth
Wow, I've forgotten about this book which is surprising, because just remembering the name makes me want to go and read it again. Susan Vreeland tells a story about the possibility of there being a 36th Vermeer painting, but the best part about this book is the order it's written in. She starts in the present day and goes in reverse chronological order. Also, since the main character changes in each chapter so does her point of view. Most is written in third person but she throws in a few chapte...more
Sara
MY TAKE: ** Love enough ** My soul shuddered **
Some of the stories were difficult to get into or stay interested in, but the whole collection together is quite beautiful. I enjoyed the timeline and the build and progression (or rather, regression)of the painting, and the different meaning that it had for so many people. This novel was lyrically written, with a smooth continuous flow, and each story touching in its own way. It is interesting to think about how “things outlive people.” Art affects...more
Melissa Etheridge
A painting of a young woman wearing a light blue gown gazing out of a window is the main character in this lovely novel. Girl in Hyacinth Blue is a historical fiction novel that begins in the present then weaves its way back in time.

The story begins with the current owner of the painting wishing to rid himself of it because of the way that his father obtained the painting. He believes that he can rid himself of the guilt that he associates with the painting by burning it. From there the reader...more
Amalie
Aug 24, 2011 Amalie rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Art lovers, Historical Fiction lovers,
Girl in Hyacinth Blue is a eight interlinked stories revolve around a single painting, a portrait of a young girl whose face seems to be filled with dreams and longings - may be a lost Vermeer. The story begins in present-day America and ends in the 17th century Netherlands, scrolling backward as each chapter accounts for the painting's role in the life of one of its owners. She is dressed so simple but quickly finds a special place in each of her owners' hearts and lives, and an intimate relati...more
Winna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Clif Hostetler
I listened to the audio of this book before my Goodreads.com days, therefore I don't have my own review. However, here is a review from today's PageADay Book Lover's Calendar that reminded me of the book:

In this riveting novel, Susan Vreeland imagines a long-lost Vermeer masterpiece. She follows the painting back in time, through its various owners, finally ending in Delft, where she identifies the subject of the painting and allows the girl in question to tell her own moving story. Full of orig...more
Nancy (NE)
I am not sure where to rate this. It would probably be closer to a 3 star. However, I whipped through it in a couple days, unusual for me. I very much enjoyed the atmospheric nature of the writing. Vreeland does a lovely job intertwining history and location into her narratives without overwhelming the reader. Each chapter is a backwards chronology of the various owners of a painting. Each layer gives a very different part of class and culture. The characterizations and voices are quite varied,...more
Chris
First off, this is not a book to read if you're depressed and looking for something to entertain you. Each story is uniquely sad. Which is not to say the book isn't well written. It is. Vreeland begins with the possibility of previously unknown Vermeer in the possession of an unassuming math teacher at a boys prep school in the United States. From there she moves back through time in a series of short stories, each one revealing a little about the painting and the different people who owned it....more
Sophie
This book is an amazing achievement. Centered around one Vermeer painting, the book retraces the lives the painting touched--from modern day to its creation--and takes the reader on a remarkable journey, painting a perfect picture of each moment in time. I was particularly struck by the level of detail the author incorporates into each story. The amount of research Ms. Vreeland must have done to create this book is awe-inspiring, and yet it never feels like she was merely reciting facts or inclu...more
Julie
I read this novel after reading "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and was a little disappointed.

The story begins with math professor, Cornelius Engelbrecht. He was bequeathed a painting from his father, who claims it a masterpiece by the Dutch artist Vermeer. There are no papers to prove this statement; however, the bigger picture is the way Cornelius's father obtained the painting...a way that has haunted him all his life.

Each chapter moves back in time to the previous owner of the painting. Readers...more
Kelsey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patrick
The book is written in the style of the movie "The Red Violin" and Geraldine Brooks' "People of the Book" which follows an object down through the ages.

While Cornelius is mesmerized by the Vermeer painting, he feels guilty on how the painting was acquired by his father who was a Nazi officer in the Netherlands and thus stole the painting from a rich Jewish family.

In his old age, he confesses the crime to Richard in the hope of acquitting his father's crime and thus save the painting from destru...more
Bindu Manoj
A mathematics professor, who is a "mild mannered acquaintance to all rather than a friend to any, a person anxious to become invisible,' uncharacteristically invites home, his colleague, an art teacher to view a painting. He instantly recognizes the style as that of Vermeer. The professor indignantly ascertains that it is indeed an original ,

"Look. Look at her eye. Like a pearl. Pearls were favorite items of Vermeer. The longing in her expression. And look at that Delft lighting spilling on to h...more
Heather
Beautifully written, creatively frameworked, falling backward through time. I absolutely loved this short novel's look at the world through the painting itself! If you have ever wondered what stories the walls could tell, this book delivers all that and more. Life's hardship, struggle, and persistence mirror this painting's ability to survive, find worth, and exist through centuries. Anyone who loves art might find enjoyment in this book, if only for the suggestion that every creative pursuit of...more
Stacy
This wasn't quite what I expected, but it was entertaining and very easy to read. Rather than a focused fictionalization of the creation of a painting, such as Girl With a Pearl Earring, this "novel" is really a series of vignettes, starting from present day and progressing back through each owner of the painting until we reach its creation. The painting in question is a "lost Vermeer"--by the time it reaches current day, its provenance has been lost, but the owner believes it to be an undocumen...more
Kim
I loved this story! It begins when a young man shows up with a painting that he thinks might be valuable and he wants to have it authenicated (I can't remember how he finds it now. . ),but it turns out to be a Vermeer! The rest of the book is about this painting, and who all owned it over the years until you get all the way back to Vermeer himself painting his little daughter. I read this in my book group and compared it with Girl With a Pearl Earring, which was also about Vermeer. Though both b...more
JG (The Introverted Reader)
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 o...more
Leah
This book was beautiful. That's the simplest way to sum it up in one word. The book is about the life of a painting by Vermeer, containing a selection of short stories with different sets of people who are somehow affected by this painting of a girl sitting by a sewing table wearing blue.

The book begins in the story's present and each story following eventually takes us back to Vermeer painting the picture, and lastly, to the life of the girl in the picture. The amazing thing is that you read a...more
Jacquie Ream
An interesting and thought provoking read, the book weaves a tale using the history of a painting by Vermeer to explore the perceptions that people have of beauty and values. The painting transforms and affects lives of all ages, classes and genders. It poses the question of value: is art for art’s sake, for monetary, intrinsic value or personal gratification? The painting itself saves the life of an innocent child and is the reason another innocent child’s life is taken. And throughout the hist...more
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Stitchers Book Club: Girl in Hyacinth Blue 2 3 Jan 23, 2014 08:19AM  
  • The Painted Kiss
  • Artemisia
  • Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper
  • The Lady and the Unicorn
  • The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism
  • The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren
  • The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century
  • Tulip Fever
  • The Illuminator (Illuminator, #1)
  • Leonardo's Swans
  • Rembrandt, 1606-1669: The Mystery of the Revealed Form
  • I Am Madame X
  • Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet
  • Vivaldi's Virgins
  • I, Mona Lisa
  • The Birth of Venus
  • Strapless
  • Portrait of an Unknown Woman
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Susan Vreeland is an internationally renowned best-selling author and four-time winner of the Theodor Geisel Award for Fiction, the San Diego Book Award’s highest honor. She is known for writing historical fiction on art-related themes, including Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany. Her books have been translated into 26 languag...more
More about Susan Vreeland...
Clara and Mr. Tiffany The Passion of Artemisia Luncheon of the Boating Party The Forest Lover Life Studies: Stories

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“Everybody works . . . . That's what life is. Work and a little play and a lot of prayer.” 6 likes
“If two people love the same thing, she reasoned, then they must love each other, at least a little, even if they never say it.” 6 likes
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